Big Island—Two private security officers received laurels from the Big Island community and Bedford County officials Thursday for their roles in saving the life of a local 2-year-old boy earlier this month.
Lt. Roderick "RJ" Nowlin and Capt. Graham Humphreys both work for U.S. Security Associates at Georgia-Pacific's paper mill in Big Island, two of nine total full-time security officers working at the mill. They were stationed at the guard house at the mill's entrance the afternoon of July 14, close to the end of a day checking vehicles in and out.
Benjamin and Angela Anderton drove up to the entrance just before 1:50 p.m. that day with a crisis neither man had run into before — the Andertons' son Judah appeared to have drowned in a pool. Lacking cellphone reception and with the Lynchburg hospital a long drive away, the Andertons sought help from the security officers.
The family drove a few miles from their home on the northern edge of Big Island to the mill, since they didn't see any ambulances at the EMS headquarters.
Nowlin said he heard yelling for help and opened the guardhouse door to find the Andertons holding Judah, who looked blue. He immediately told them to lay the 2-year-old down and started helping give him CPR, while Humphreys called emergency responders to come get the boy.
"I did not know how long he was out," Nowlin said. "… I'm just glad [that] after a couple of minutes, he started breathing again."
Though Humphreys said it was only a matter of minutes before medics arrived for Judah, he said it felt much longer.
Because of its rural location, Georgia-Pacific Public Affairs Manager Tim Chatlos said the security officers at the Big Island mill are required to have first aid and CPR certification — skills that proved invaluable in helping to save Judah.
"I'm just glad my instincts did kick in and I just knew what to do right away," Nowlin said.
As soon as she and her husband saw Judah sinking in the pool at about 1:30 p.m. that day, Angela Anderton said she and her husband scooped him out and started to perform CPR. She said Judah had been learning to swim.
"I think he legitimately thought he could swim," she said.
After deciding to drive to the mill and seek the officers' aid, she said Nowlin was the "calm in the storm," giving patient instructions while she and her husband waited for medics to arrive for their son.
"It was a really frantic moment," she said.
Nowlin and Humphreys received armfuls of awards and certificates at Thursday afternoon's session at Big Island EMS headquarters. Big Island Volunteer Fire Company Chief Brandon Cocke presented them each with Citizen Life Saving Awards, though he "didn't anticipate doing it again that quickly" after giving the first award to a teacher's aide who performed the Heimlich maneuver on a choking student earlier this year.
"When you grow up in Big Island, one of the first things that you learn is that when someone in the community is hurting, we all feel it," he said.
Jack Jones, Bedford County's fire and rescue chief, presented the two with special recognition certificates, and Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown handed them commendations from his office. Nowlin and Humphreys also received $150 gift cards to Jersey Mike's, since Chatlos knew the subs there are one of Nowlin's favorites, and baskets full of Georgia-Pacific paper products and merchandise.
Angela Anderton said Judah was at University of Virginia's hospital for five days and taken off intubation after three days — and a fighter the entire time. While she learned many drowning survivors encounter brain damage or other debilitation under similar circumstances, Judah was spared such damage, and though he was weakened at first, he recovered quickly.
"We marveled at his bounce back," she said.
Judah accompanied his family to Thursday's ceremony, exploring the EMS headquarters and getting acquainted with a new teddy bear from the Bedford County Sheriff's Office. Angela Anderton said his swimming lessons have been put on pause for a while.