A Cop Just Happened to Be in the Right Place at the Right Time to Save a 12-Day-Old Baby’s Life

“Do not let this baby die in front of her mother and grandmother.”

lifesaving traffic stop illustration by gel jamlangGel Jamlang for Reader's Digest

Kemira Boyd had just jumped in the shower when she heard her stepmother, Tammy Boyd, banging on the door. Kemira’s 12-day-old daughter was choking. Having fed and burped baby Ryleigh just 30 minutes earlier, the 24-year-old new mother burst out of the bathroom and began patting her daughter on the back. Ryleigh was usually quick to cry. Now she didn’t make a sound. “I’d been told to raise their arms when babies are choking, so I tried that, but she still was hesitating to breathe,” Kemira told Today. She knew Ryleigh needed to get to the hospital fast.

The trio had barely made it out of their Summerville, South Carolina, neighborhood when the flashing lights of a police cruiser appeared behind them. Deputy Will Kimbro figured that the speeding driver was either too distracted to notice him or plain unconcerned. Kimbro soon found out it was a frightening combination of the two.

Once she’d pulled over to the curb, a frantic Tammy jumped out of the car, exclaiming that her granddaughter had stopped breathing.

Desperate for help, Kemira handed the baby to Kimbro. He put a hand on her little chest. Ryleigh’s heart was barely beating.

Kimbro radioed for an ambulance—it was seven minutes out, and the hospital was even further away. That was seven minutes Ryleigh didn’t have, her lips already an ominous shade of blue.

The fact that Kimbro was there was something of a miracle. He is a school resource officer who usually spends his days patrolling the halls of the middle school ten miles away. But he travels farther afield when school is out in the summer. Even luckier: He had recently completed a CPR class and knew exactly how to treat an infant.

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“Although I was shocked, my training kicked in, and I went to work to keep that baby alive,” says Kimbro.

The deputy gave Ryleigh to Kemira to hold, his hands busy as he checked for a pulse. Then he began tapping and kneading Ryleigh’s chest, hoping to massage her heart back into action. Thanks to the CPR class, Kimbro knew the choking infant didn’t have a chance if there was a blockage, and he used one finger to clear her airway. That was the magic touch; 20 seconds later, Ryleigh began to fuss. Then came a whimper.

“If she’s crying like that, she’s breathing,” said Kimbro, the relief palpable in his trembling voice. “As long as she’s crying, she’s breathing.”

But they still had five more minutes until EMS would arrive, and Kimbro worried that Ryleigh would asphyxiate again. He continued with delicate chest compressions and periodically clearing her airway. “The whole time I was thinking, Do not let this baby die in front of her mother and grandmother,” he later told Inside Edition. “Just don’t.”

In the body cam footage, Kimbro can be heard reassuring Kemira, the approaching sirens wailing in the background: “I didn’t feel a heartbeat earlier, so I started massaging her heart, and now I feel it. It’s real strong now.”

After transferring Ryleigh to an EMT, Kimbro peeked into the windows of the ambulance until it pulled away. At the hospital, Ryleigh recovered quickly, and she was back to her usual feisty self in no time—thanks to a determined school police officer who was in the right place at the right time. Said Kimbro to the Washington Post, “That baby was living no matter what I had to do.”

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest