Family February 15, 2023

4-year-old saves mom’s life while also caring for younger siblings

WATCH: 4-year-old credited with saving mom’s life

A 4-year-old boy is being credited with saving his mother's life by taking care of her and his two younger siblings when she went into septic shock.

Rachel Milless of Big Lake, Minnesota, said she was home alone with her 4-year-old son Asher and his younger brothers, ages 2 and 1, while battling the flu last November.

The registered nurse said she knew she felt sick enough to go the emergency room, so she was getting ready to drop her sons off at her sister's home and drive herself to the ER when she had a coughing fit.

"I felt like I was breathing through a straw and it was terrifying," she told "Good Morning America." "And then eventually I just didn't feel like I was breathing well at all."

Rachel Milless said she suffers from asthma and has a nebulizer at home.

As she was trying to reach her nebulizer to help her breathe, she said she fell to the floor in the kitchen, and that's when Asher stepped into action.

"He just instinctively brought [the nebulizer] over and plugged it in and hooked it up and put all the meds in it," Rachel Milless said. "He held it to my face and said, 'Just breathe, mom,' and was practicing with me."

Tyler Milless
Rachel Milless poses with her 4-year-old son Asher.

She said she and her husband, Tyler Milless, who was in another state for work at the time, had never shown Asher how to use the nebulizer.

They said they had also never shown the 4-year-old how to call someone on their cell phones, but the next thing Asher did was grab Rachel Milless's phone and press the side button so he could tell Siri, "Call daddy."

"I do hold the button down and say [to Siri] to call people often when I have the three of them by myself," Rachel Milless said. "But we had never taught it to him, never walked him through it."

Asher's message to "Call daddy" prompted Rachel Milless' phone to call her father, who then alerted family members who lived nearby and called 911.

Eventually, Tyler Milless, a state trooper, was able to get on the phone with Asher.

"[Asher] said, 'Mommy needs help ... she's on the floor, and then it was just a matter of continuously asking him questions," Tyler Milless recalled. "My biggest struggle was trying to ask him if she was breathing but not that direct with him because I didn't want to scare him."

He continued, "So I asked him if Rachel was talking and he said, 'No, she's not,' and I asked him if she was moving and he said, 'No, she's not,' and then my next question was, 'Are her eyes open?,' and he said, 'Yes, she's blinking.'"

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Tyler Milless said he stayed on the phone with Asher until paramedics arrived, all the while explaining to his son how to to unlock the front door and let the first responders in so they could help his mom.

While Asher was taking care of his mom, he also looked out for his siblings, according to the Millesses.

They said Asher moved his younger brothers to an area outside of the kitchen and gave them snacks and toys to distract them while Rachel Milless struggled to breathe.

Tyler Milless
Tyler and Rachel Milless, of Minnesota, are pictured with their three children.

Local police officers were the first to arrive on the scene, followed quickly by paramedics, who began to treat Rachel Milless.

"When our officers got there, she was down on the floor and having ... difficulty in breathing," Sherburne County Sheriff Chief Deputy Steve Doran told "GMA." "Her diagnosis was she was going into septic shock from complications due to influenza A."

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Doran said the responding officers were "extremely impressed" when they arrived on the scene to a 4-year-old in charge.

"I think they were very surprised and they were extremely impressed that a child so young was capable of doing those things," Doran said. "Even from the moment the incident started ... he knew something was wrong and knew enough to to place a phone call."

Courtesy of Sherburne County
Asher Milless, 4, received the Sherburne County Sheriff's Life Saving Award for his quick actions when his mom fell ill at the family's Minnesota home.

Rachel Milless was transported by ambulance to a local hospital, where she said doctors told her, "Your 4-year-old saved your life."

"They said if I would have waited any longer I would have been very sick and I wouldn’t be alive today," she said. "So I owe it all to this little guy, who is my guardian angel. Without him, I probably wouldn't be here."

Courtesy of Sherburne County
Asher Milless, 4, received the Sherburne County Sheriff's Life Saving Award for his quick actions when his mom fell ill at the family's Minnesota home.

Rachel Milless said she was hospitalized overnight and then went home to continue her recovery, noting it took several weeks to fully regain her strength.

Last week, the Sherburne County Sheriff's Office recognized Asher with its Life Saving Award. He is the youngest recipient to receive the award in the office's history, according to Doran.

"Our office was thoroughly impressed that a boy so young could take the actions that he took that day," he said of Asher. "It’s just incredible to know that someone so young is capable of that."

Doran said he recommends that parents teach their children how to dial 911 as soon as they feel the child is developmentally ready.

Courtesy of Sherburne County
Asher Milless, 4, received the Sherburne County Sheriff's Life Saving Award for his quick actions when his mom fell ill at the family's Minnesota home.

Rachel and Tyler Milless said they remain shocked that Asher was able to stay so calm in a time of crisis.

"It just amazes me because he's a wild 4-year-old," said Tyler Milless. "He's all over the place all the time, but in that moment he knew that mom needed help and he needed to be calm."

Rachel Milless said she and her husband have learned through the experience to never underestimate kids, and just how much kids learn by watching their parents.

"A couple of my friends have said, 'My 4-year-old could never do that,' and I said, 'If roles were reversed, I would have told you my 4-year-old could have never done that,'" she said. "It's just crazy to see, they really are sponges."