His mother, 55, seemed to start breathing again after he first shared his breath, he said, but soon stopped breathing.
So he alternated the chest pushes and breathing three or four times before the Roy Fire Department's paramedics arrived and took over. By then, her pulse was three beats per minute.
On Friday, Roy Fire Chief Jason Poulsen awarded C.J. a hero's plaque, saying the boy's quick puffs of air and pushes on his mother's chest likely saved Cristine Saulsgiver's life. She suffered a severe heart attack but is expected to fully recover.
Her doctor, Yuri Khodakov, said that it's speculative but agreed C.J. probably saved his mother's life. "He didn't panic," the doctor noted.
The sixth-grader at Lakeview Elementary learned CPR in Brigham City, where he had joined his parents in training required of potential foster families.
Poulsen, who suggested C.J. come to the fire station for a belated birthday party and perhaps consider an early career as a paramedic, said his action was pivotal. "He gave his mom every chance to survive," he said.
The paramedics were able to do a scan of her heart so McKay-Dee's caregivers knew what to expect when she arrived by ambulance, he said.
"All kids should know they can do this," said C.J.'s dad, Doc Saulsgiver, who praised the paramedics and the hospital, as well as his son, for saving his wife's life. "This old dog got taught a new trick by this young kid."
There was also a bit of symmetry in C.J.'s heroics, he said.
The boy was just 3 months old and living with his addicted mother when Cristine Saulsgiver his grandmother by birth took him to the same hospital to be checked for drugs.
"From that day on, we've had him," said Doc Saulsgiver. The couple adopted C.J.
His aunt, Becky Christlieb, of Layton, said she doubted most adults would have the presence of mind do to what the 12-year-old boy did.
"I'm glad he was brave and rational enough to do that under pressure," she said.