A Marine colonel is alive today thanks to the quick thinking and medical training of a young corporal who happened to be nearby when the officer’s heart stopped beating.
In an award ceremony Dec. 16, 2022, that officer — Col. Carlos Urbina — presented Cpl. Chase Portello with a Navy Commendation Medal for his lifesaving actions on Nov. 14.
In an interview transcript provided by the Marine Corps, both men described being in a small restaurant on the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia. “I was feeling unwell, but I thought nothing of it,” Urbina said.
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“I came to find out later that I actually went into sudden cardiac arrest,” he added.
That’s when Air Force Capt. Jennifer Fields stepped in to provide aid. Seeing a fellow Marine in distress, Portello, who has EMT training from his time working with a fire department, offered to help.
When neither could find a pulse, the young Marine said that “we started CPR,” adding that they “kept switching on and off from who is doing compressions and breaths.”
According to his award citation, the two rendered aid for around 30 minutes until more help arrived.
Both service members’ quick thinking meant that Urbina is alive today. “According to the doctors, the fact that CPR was initiated immediately directly contributed to my survival,” the colonel explained.
After he recovered, Urbina wanted to thank everyone who helped save his life.
“It took about four visits for me to go back to the firehouse to be able to personally thank every single one of the first responders that was there,” Urbina said. One of those firefighters gave him Portello’s name.
Portello, who is stationed with Marine Helicopter Squadron One — the unit that is responsible for transporting the president and vice president of the United States — was personally presented his award by the man whose life he saved. He described the moment as “a blessing.”
“In my whole experience, I never got to see someone I treated after the fact,” Portello said.
“It was just really cool to see him here living, walking around and with his family.”
— Konstantin Toropin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.
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