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SUNDAY STORY:Friends for life

As Telford Cottam Jr. bled profusely from his right arm in a small town in Mexico, his companions had one option: Save their friend. But how?

August 13, 2006|By Lauren Vane

It could be years before Telford regains feeling and ability in his arm. Daily tasks, like putting on a T-shirt, are far more difficult than they used to be, but Telford doesn't seem phased by the extra work.

"My arm being the way it is … I don't let it bug me," Telford said.

Without his friends' help and their medical training, Telford could have died in Mexico, Ovalle said.

"That wound he had was completely a mortal wound," Ovalle said.

As lifeguards, Brett and Danny are trained as first responders — the American Red Cross' highest level of medical training, said Newport Beach Lifeguard Officer Mike Halphide. He said he's not at all surprised that the boys took charge and did the right thing.

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"They're just so used to acting as a group and just doing whatever needs to be done; they didn't second guess themselves," Halphide said.

At a dinner at the Cottam family's Costa Mesa home Thursday, Telford's parents thanked everyone who helped get their son safely home.

"These boys right here saved his life — there's no doubt about it," Telford Cottam Sr. said, gesturing to Jonsen and Brett, who were seated next to his son on a couch inside the family living room. To the four boys who have grown up together since pre-school and kindergarten, the accident and subsequent attention has been overwhelming.

"I pray every day for my life, and it's been a life-altering experience," Telford Cottam Jr. said.

After the accident, Telford got a tattoo on his left bicep that reads "SEMPER AMICITIA" — "forever friendship" in Latin. As the four boys get ready to experience their first year at college, Telford said the tattoo stands as a permanent mark of their friendship.

Before the accident, Telford was accepted on a water polo scholarship to Pepperdine University. At the end of August, he'll head off to school, but his role on the team will be different from what he planned. But as soon as he can, he wants to start training so he can play again.

With all the surgeries hopefully behind them, Monica Cottam said she isn't worried about her son leaving home.

"I'm the most thrilled he has something to look forward to," she said.

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