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Soldiers credits Basic Life Support course in saving nephew’s life

By Dr. Steven Galvan | U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Public Affairs | Dec. 4, 2018


Have you ever wondered if it’s worth your time or beneficial to take a Basic Life Support course? Ask Spc. Josue Garcia-Marcano and you will get a resounding “definitely” without hesitation.


Garcia-Marcano, a bioscience specialist at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, completed a BLS course in September and the next day used what he had learned to save his nephew’s life.   


Garcia-Marcano’s wife, Candace, provides home daycare for their two nephews, as Gideon is a year old and Elliot is two. That week, Elliot had been running a high fever and not feeling well. When Garcia-Marcano got home after work, his wife asked if he could keep an eye on the boys while she took a quick shower. Shortly after, Elliot began to have a seizure.

“At first I thought he was choking because his face was turning blue,” Garcia-Marcano said. “I picked him up and gave him a couple of slaps on the back and then checked his airway. He was unresponsive and his eyes were all over the place. That’s when I realized he wasn’t choking and was having a seizure.”

Garcia-Marcano moved Elliot from the couch to the floor and removed his shirt and he could see that he was taking very shallow breaths, “like gasping for air,” he said.

“A little while after initially freaking out and yelling for my wife, I noticed that he stopped gasping for air,” Garcia-Marcano recalled. “I checked his pulse and couldn’t find one, so I started chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth.”

While he was performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, Candice stepped out of the shower and noticed what was going on and immediately called 911.

“Soon after that, he started gasping for air again, but I continued CPR because I was panicked and he was still struggling to breathe.”

Shortly after, Candace handed Garcia-Marcano the cell phone to talk to the 911 dispatcher. The dispatcher asked him to stop CPR and relay what Elliot was doing. He relayed to the dispatcher that his nephew was taking shallow breaths.

“After about four breaths, he instructed me to continue with the compressions,” he said. “A few minutes later the paramedics arrived and took my nephew to the hospital.”

Once Elliot was stabilized at the hospital, the medical staff ran a few tests on him and he was diagnosed with pneumonia.

“He seized for about 10 minutes which they [medical staff] said was abnormal,” Garcia-Marcano said. “At first, I thought I did the wrong thing by giving him chest compressions since he was having a seizure, but the medical staff said I did the right thing because the dispatcher told me to continue.”

“When we have successes like Spc. Garcia-Marcano saving a life, I feel honored that we are educating our team and improving our community,” said Capt. Cassandra Bullock, a nurse educator at USAISR Burn Center Department of Clinical Education, who taught the course he attended. “He was not required to have BLS for his MOS (military occupation code or job specialty) or job duty, but he signed up for the course to expand his knowledge and thus improved not only his family, but community.”

Garcia-Marcano said he felt confident while he was performing CPR on his nephew, especially since he had taken the course the day before and knew that chest compressions on an infant are done with two fingers, which is different than performing CPR on an adult.

“The BLS Course trains participants to promptly recognize several life-threatening emergencies, give high-quality chest compressions, deliver appropriate ventilations and provide early use of an automated external defibrillator,” Bullock added. 

Garcia-Marcano didn’t know he would put what he learned to an actual real-life situation, but is extremely happy that he did because his training was a success.

“My nephew is doing great and is completely back to normal,” he said.