Sask. mother conducts CPR on newborn during labour with triplets

With a little help from her 15-year-old, Danielle Johnston was able to save her newborn triplets’ lives, performing CPR on one while labouring with the two others.

Triplets are in neonatal intensive care but showing steady signs of improvement

Danielle Johnston is seeing steady signs of improvement in her triplets, after she gave birth to Karlee on July 16 at home, followed by Jack and Liam's births the day after. (Submitted by Danielle Johnston)

With a little help from her 15-year-old, Danielle Johnston was able to save her newborn triplets' lives, performing CPR on one while labouring with the two others.

Throughout it all, her son Dillon was by her side, staying steady and calm, and driving out to meet the ambulance to guide them to the family's farmhouse in Griffin, Sask.

"He's my hero," she told CBC Saskatchewan's The Afternoon Edition. "I just love him so much, [I'm] so proud of him."

Fifteen-year-old Dillon Johnston was a calm presence while his mother was delivering the first of her triplets at home. (Submitted by Danielle Johnston)

An unexpected home delivery

After having an ultrasound earlier in the day on July 16, Danielle was told her pregnancy was progressing fine at 32 weeks. She went home and spent the evening with her four children, lying down beside the three younger ones to read to them.

"I must have fallen asleep with them, for about an hour and I woke up in severe pain," she said. 

She told her son that something was wrong, and to phone for an ambulance. But the contractions were coming strong and "then the pain was just too much," she recalled.

With little more warning, the first of her triplets was born, but she wasn't breathing.

Danielle snapped into action, with Dillon by her side.

"I had to kind pull her out of me, and he helped me onto the couch, so I was able to give her CPR," she said.

She told Dillon to meet the ambulance at the road while she kept administering CPR to newborn Karlee.     

Karlee Johnston was born not breathing, but shows every sign of getting stronger every day, according to her mother. (Submitted by Danielle Johnston)

"It was about 45 minutes that it took for them to come. And the whole time, he was calm and cool and collected — pretty big for a 15-year-old."

The ambulance arrived to transport Danielle to a hospital, with the two remaining infants in a breech position.

Karlee's brothers Liam and Jack were delivered safely the next day, with each of the babies weighing in at about 4.5 pounds.

The babies were each born at about 4.5 pounds, an above average birth weight for triplets. (Submitted by Danielle Johnston)

All three infants are currently at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Regina's General Hospital, but are showing steady signs of improvement. 

A mother's lifesaving CPR rescues 

It's actually the third time Danielle has come to her children's rescue. When her daughter Kate was 10-months-old, the two were walking on the beach at Mainprize Regional Park when a sand cliff fell upon them, knocking both the mother and daughter to the ground. When Danielle got up, she was terrified when she saw sand everywhere, and her daughter completely covered.

"I dug until I found her — she was blue already," said Danielle.

Danielle Johnston's nine-year-old daughter Kate also had a close call, getting buried under sand at the age of 10-months-old. In that case as well, Johnston saved her daughter by conducting CPR. (Submitted by Danielle Johnston)

She cleared her daughter's mouth of sand and debris and gave her CPR until she revived.

"You wouldn't know now that that had ever happened to her, because she's so strong, and healthy and smart."

When her son Samuel was a six-week-old infant, he too had an incident in which he stopped breathing, with Danielle performing CPR and rushing him out the door to meet an ambulance. 

"It is incredible," said Trevor Johnston of his wife's life-saving efforts. As a trucker, he works long hours, but he knows he never has to worry that a situation might come up that his wife can't handle. 

"She's steady on her feet, that's for sure." 

Now Danielle is hoping her triplets will follow in their older siblings' footsteps, as each day brings improvements to their health.

"They're so cute and perfect," she said, noting her tiny-but-mighty three are rapidly gaining in strength.

"They are precious."

Danielle Johnston says her newborn triplets Karlee, Jack and Liam are precious additions to the Johnston family that now includes seven children. (Submitted by Danielle Johnston)

with files from CBC Saskatchewan's Afternoon Edition