Fort Mill Times

Fort Mill 7-year-old named 9-1-1 Hero

Benjamin Hudgins of Fort Mill was like any first-grader, playing video games and football, picking on his little sister.

But on March 26, what began as a normal movie night with his family turned into a test to see just how grown-up he already was.

Benjamin, then 6, had just sat down to watch "Astro Boy" with his father, Monty Hudgins, and little sister, Ella, who was 5 at the time - when his father began seizing.

A condition he developed after sustaining a head injury, the seizures happen when he's asleep and usually aren't critical, but they do incapacitate him temporarily, Hudgins said. He had just dozed off when the seizure struck.

Remembering what his parents told him about identifying seizures, Benjamin knew something was wrong.

He picked up a foam swim noodle he'd been using as a play sword and hit his father.

"I just kept whacking him with a noodle," Benjamin said.

But when Hudgins didn't respond, Benjamin called his mother, Lisa Hudgins, who was in Atlanta at a dental conference.

Lisa Hudgins thought she could call 9-1-1 from Atlanta, but discovered it didn't work that way. She called Benjamin back.

"You have to call 9-1-1," she told him.

Benjamin ran to the phone under which his mother had taped the emergency number just in case.

Benjamin called and calmly told the operator his address and his father's medical history.

When a couple of neighbors rang the doorbell, Benjamin handed the phone to Ella, who stayed on the phone and told the operator what was going on until Benjamin returned.

"He kept his composure throughout the call," said his parents, who have a copy of the 9-1-1 call on tape.

It wasn't until the next day that Benjamin showed how difficult the situation really was, Monty Hudgins said.

"After it was all said and done, he was upset about it," Hudgins said, "but during it, he never lost his composure."

His father remembers Benjamin kept asking him: "Daddy are you OK? Are you all right?"

Honored for his courage

Benjamin's use of 9-1-1 and the courage he demonstrated in an emergency recently earned him a special statewide honor - the 9-1-1 Child Hero award.

The recognition comes from the S.C. Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials and the National Emergency Number Association.

When Benjamin called 9-1-1, he acted "without losing a beat," said York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant, who presented the award to the boy at a recent York County Council meeting.

Benjamin's composure "saved his daddy's life," Bryant said.

Benjamin "serves as an example to children as well as adults (on) the proper use of 9-1-1," reads a letter from the York County Department of Public Safety Communications, which Benjamin has laminated.

Now, looking back on the event as a 7-year-old, Benjamin is only slightly different from other kids. He's dealing with a little slice of fame.

Earlier this year, he received an award from the county for his courageous 9-1-1 call at Fort Mill Elementary where he's now a second-grader.

Benjamin didn't know why he was called to the library.

"I thought it was because I didn't give my books back," he said. Instead he was recognized for his courage.

After word spread throughout the school, two friends offered to be his bodyguards.

But more importantly, Benjamin has also grown more cautious and aware of his surroundings - especially when it comes to his father.

Once when Hudgins was doing yard work and Benjamin couldn't find him, he took his father's car key and set off the alarm, knowing he'd show up if he was OK.

"Man, we never taught him to do that," Hudgins said, impressed and comforted by his son's thoughtful reaction.

Benjamin has also taken on a new responsibility.

"He doesn't have to, but he feels compelled every night to ask, 'Daddy did you take your medicine?' "