Local siblings' quick actions save girl's life in Florida

Ashlyn Kahl TimesNewspapers
Rich Miller of Tremont, left, and Heidi Henderson of Morton pose for a photo with the little girl whose life they saved in Orlando, Florida. submitted photo

MORTON — Just days before the tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida, the city saw a miracle when two central Illinois natives worked to save the life of a little girl. 

When Rich Miller, of Tremont, and his sister, Heidi Henderson, of Morton, left their homes to vacation in central Florida with their families, they had no idea they would soon be returning as heroes. 

Cheryl Miller, mother of Rich and Heidi, was headed to the resort pool on June 10 when she spotted a child being pulled from the water, seemingly unconscious. When it became apparent that no one in the area knew how to help, Cheryl took off to find Rich and Heidi. 

Rich Miller and Henderson both work as physician assistants in Peoria and have experience in the medical field. Rushing over, they found a 4-year-old child surrounded by people without any CPR training. Beginning their work, Rich Miller and Henderson performed CPR until the child began to breathe. They then worked as a team to induce vomiting using the Heimlich maneuver to expel excess water. 

“Everyone was standing around crying and praying. It was scary for all of us, especially knowing that there were so many people who didn’t know what to do,” Cheryl Miller said.

Eventually the little girl began to cry and the ambulance arrived. According to the Millers, the resort did not have any lifeguards or staff trained to give CPR. 

“Hearing her cry was just beautiful. Without Rich and Heidi, the little girl would not have survived. It was just awesome to see them work as a team to save a life,” Cheryl Miller said.

Days went by before the Millers heard any news; it seemed as though Rich Miller and Henderson would never know what happened to the little girl. Until, on their last day in Orlando, the uncle of the little girl recognized the Millers. He called them over to express his thanks, and provide more details. The girl, who did not know how to swim, had jumped into the water unexpectedly. After Rich Miller and Heidi Henderson saved her life, she was transferred to a nearby hospital where she was stabilized and discharged after two days.

The entire family then got to meet her, even getting a picture together to document the occasion. 

Cheryl Miller said she believes meeting the girl once again was a true blessing.

“Getting that chance to meet her on our last day just touched our hearts. The entire situation served as such a learning experience.”

Both Rich Miller and Henderson have 5-year-old daughters.

“So, this was also very close to their hearts as parents,” Cheryl Miller said. “It was each of their first time resuscitating a child. Our family is very proud of them for quick action and using their medical knowledge to save this little girl’s life. A beautiful miracle with a wonderful outcome.”

Both families saw a miracle that day, but the Millers attribute it to their children’s knowledge of life-saving techniques.

“It is so important to know CPR, even if you can start something before the ambulance arrives. There were so many people who didn’t know what to do in that situation, and it was scary,” Cheryl Miller said.