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NEWS | Jan. 12, 2023

U.S. Airman saves a U.S. Marine Colonel’s life

By Airman 1st Class Mikaela Smith 633d ABW PA

U.S. Air Force Capt. Jennifer Fields, 633d Medical Group family healthy physician, sipped her coffee at a café in the town of Quantico, Virginia. It was Nov. 14, 2022, and Fields’ husband had already left the café due to work.
Fields was working on her crossword puzzle of the day. It was busy inside of the restaurant and typically Fields didn’t like to linger in crowded spaces.
“The line to cash out was very long, so I waited for a coffee refill and worked on my puzzle, which was unusual for me,” Fields said.
Fields surveyed the room and noticed two gentleman that were sitting in front of her.
One of those gentlemen, was U.S. Marine Corps Col. Carlos Urbina, a division director within the Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration, Headquarters Marine Corps. According to Urbina, he was enjoying lunch when he started to feel unwell and profusely sweat.
“The last thing I remember was wiping my forehead with a napkin before suddenly passing out,” Urbina said.
The other man in front of Fields urgently got up and asked, “Are you okay? Are you okay?” to Urbina.
Noticing the concern in his voice, Fields immediately ran over.
“Urbina was gasping for air, in what’s called, agonal breathing, or, not intentional breath,” said Fields. “A lot of things were running through my mind.”
Fields assessed the situation and went to find a pulse. She found none.
“Shock ran through my body. He was still gasping for breath, but his eyes had glazed, as if nothing was going on,” explained Fields. “Fortunately, I was surrounded by Marines, which is great in a crisis. A Marine Cpl., whose name is Chase Portello, ran up and came over to assist.”
Portello opened the Urbina’s airway, but Fields still found no pulse. Adrenaline rushing, they started performing CPR.
“As I’m doing compressions, we’re asking if anyone has called 911? If someone could find an automated external defibrillator anywhere?” said Fields. “When we couldn’t find one in the café, a Marine ran two blocks to Little Hall to get an AED that he knew would be there. He actually beat the Emergency Medical Services back to the scene, by maybe 30 seconds.”
Fields and Portello administered CPR until the EMS team took over.
“The team shocked Urbina three times and administered a lot medication to get his heart restarted before placing him into the ambulance,” Fields said.
Urbina has made a full recovery and has returned to work. He had a rare type of vasospasm that caused his heart to arrest.
“According to the doctors at the hospital, the immediate CPR rendered by Capt. Fields and Cpl. Portello directly contributed to my survival and my miraculous recovery,” said Urbina. “As fellow service members in our Nation’s armed forces, I truly believe we share a very special bond with each other. Even if we do not know each other personally, we are all brothers and sisters. As such, we do not hesitate to jump into action in order to take care of each other. Capt. Fields jumped into action for a Marine whom she had never met and her selfless actions prevented what most likely would have been a fatal sudden cardiac arrest.”
According to Fields, she did what anyone in her position with her training would have done.
“Any nurse, first responder, physician … it’s in our nature to go towards whoever needs help,” stated Fields. “The week prior, I had actually just refreshed on my CPR training. Call it what you want, but a lot of things aligned to have everything go well that day. There’s actually a train that comes into Quantico and cuts off the passage of travel and the EMS transport team beat the train leaving the scene by a few seconds.”
Everyone has a story; people have family members they love and depend on, expressed Fields. It’s important to stay mindful of each other, because one never knows what’s actually going on with somebody.
“I do not believe in coincidences,” stated Urbina. “Fields decided to stay a little longer after lunch and drink a cup of coffee, which by her own admission, she never does. For those of us who are persons of faith, I believe it was an act of God for her to have been there at the very moment I suffered sudden cardiac arrest so she could help save my life. It was a fateful day and I’m incredibly thankful.”