BY COLIN KRIEGER
Some of you may have heard that a little girl almost drowned at the old country club over the weekend; that little girl was my daughter. I will never forget that moment, nor will I ever forget the young man that saved her life that sunny afternoon.
My wife and I had taken our three daughters out to the Russell Humbers Benefit at the American Legion Hall just after church on Sunday. Many of you may remember that young Russell, who turns four this weekend, has been making a miraculous recovery from a near fatal drowning in late March of this year. Humbers wandered away from the backyard of a family friend and was discovered minutes later unconscious on the bottom of a neighbor’s pool.
I spoke with the family that afternoon about the incident in detail for the first time. I spoke with Russel’s mom, Jacquelyn Young, as she held him during a nap. She, and Russell’s father, Jonathan Humbers , still had tears in their eyes as they recalled the events of that day.
“He’d only been out of my sight for a few seconds,” Young said, “you wouldn’t believe how quick it happened.”
Both parents were besides themselves with praise and gratitude for the men who rescued their son from the pool and performed CPR until paramedics arrived.
“How do you thank them enough? What Randy and those boys did was amazing.” Young said.
The heroes the parents are referring to are Randy Gray, his son-in-law Wes Shaw and his daughter’s boyfriend, Stephen Lewis. Randy Gray was honored at the fundraiser, unfortunately Shaw and Lewis were out of town. Gray briefly spoke to The Packet at the benefit, reiterating just how quickly young Humbers disappeared, “He wasn’t gone a second, I’m telling you- you wouldn’t believe just how quick it happened.”
Humber’s parents said that the paramedics from Baptist Hospital arrived at the home within ten minutes of their call, which to Young, was unbelievable.
“It took me like 20 something minutes to get out there,” Young said.”I don’t know how they got there so quick, but I know they got my son’s heart beating again as soon as they got him in the ambulance, I know they saved his life.”
Russell Humbers spent some time in Jackson at the University of Mississippi Medical Center before returning home for therapy. His family says he is getting better every week, but they have a ways to go. He can laugh and walk a little, but gets tired very easily and frustrated when he can’t play with his friends. On the day of the benefit, young Russell was suffering from a fever and wasn’t up for much playtime.
After leaving the benefit, we took the girls over to the old country club, now known as Lion Hills, to swim for a while. We got all three of our girls: Allison,6, Katie, 3, and 18-month old Julie and threw on their floaties and noodles and sunscreen and jumped on in. We were are splashing in and around the shallow end of the pool when my wife and I picked up our youngest and guided her along the southern wall of the pool just past the lifeguard stand towards the deep end.
You wouldn’t believe how quickly it happened.
I saw the lifeguard talking with my oldest by the edge of the shallow end of the pool. I initially thought maybe she was running or horsing around or something. She wasn’t. The lifeguard had seen Katie under the water and was asking if she knew how to swim underwater. Before me or my wife knew what hit us, Allison was running towards us screaming something about her sister. I looked up to see the young man carrying my Katie to the edge of the pool. Her eyes were rolled back in her head, her legs and face were blue, and she didn’t move an inch.
Terror. There’s no other word to describe the moment. People who saw the whole thing said she wasn’t under for more than 30 seconds, but she had turned blue. I was still in the pool holding our baby while my wife knelt beside the lifeguard as he cleared her throat and began chest compressions. I was at eye level with my little girl, stroking her hair trying to get her to wake up. Meanwhile, the lifeguard patiently worked on her.
The official report says it was about a minute, but I’m going to go ahead and say it was a lifetime before my baby coughed for the the first time. The lifeguard kept doing the compressions until she threw up on her own. He quickly sat her up and handed her to my wife, who enveloped both Katie and her hero at once.
Katie kicked and cried for a second, mostly begging to go back in the pool. An ambulance came out and brought her to Baptist and she stayed overnight for observation- but she recovered quite well. As we left the pool, the water was as calm as could be, with the other 15 or so kids who were in the pool were being held tight by their parents, safely out of the water.
While Katie was being checked out of the ER, I ran into the Humbers as they brought young Russell in. His fever had gotten worse, and they were spending yet another evening in the hospital.
I sat down in the room and told them what I just told you. I only had a small taste of the horror that hey have endured, but talking about it with them was a healing experience. Our kids are the same age, and we both almost lost them. They are dealing with a big fight, much bigger than ours.
It turns out the lifeguard, the teenage kid who just got his Red Cross certification last year, had just started working for his second season at the club. He probably was planning on getting a tan over the summer, meeting some girls and maybe pulling someone out of the pool with leg cramps.
His name is Nick Ferrebee. He just graduated from Caledonia High School and will be headed to ICC in the fall. He stuck to his training, he kept his cool and he saved my little girls life. I don’t know how to thank him; I plan to do everything I can to let him know how much I owe him.
By the time most of you are reading this Thursday afternoon, Katie will be back at the pool to spend some time with Nick. She says he’s a superhero (just like Superman.)
I ask that anyone who knows Nick or his family, please give them a hug and do whatever you can to help him. In honor of him, we ask that you consider donating to the Thomas Russell Humbers benefit account at Bank First. A special thanks go out to EMCC, who owns Lion Hills, for having well-trained lifeguards on hand at all times.
Colin Krieger is the Publisher of The Columbus Packet. You can reach him at email@example.com