FORT HOOD — It was a typical Friday night for the Polanco family.
Their two kids were in bed and they had another couple over watching TV in their on-post home Sept. 21 when Christina Polanco heard a “weird screeching sound” from where her 3-year-old son was sleeping upstairs.
“Christian was under the blanket on my bed ... clutching his throat,” recalled Polanco. “I screamed for my husband and carried him downstairs.”
Her husband, Spc. Louis Polanco, assumed the child had swallowed something in his sleep and was trying to pull it out with his finger. Nothing was there.
“When he went limp ... I didn’t know how to react,” he said. “I lost it.”
Christina Polanco said her instincts told her to hold and beat on the toddler’s back to loosen whatever might be blocking his airway.
Meanwhile, Christian’s face began to turn blue and he panicked as he tried to gasp for air. At one point he lost consciousness.
Spc. Matt Kutz kept his head clear during the panic of the scared parents and called 911 for his friends.
“I just jumped in and did what I knew to do,” he said.
About six months ago, Kutz said he’d taken a combat lifesaver course and the material was still fresh in his mind.
“He had to say, ‘I know what to do, let me do it,’” said Christina Polanco.
With guidance from the emergency dispatcher, Kutz was able to lay Christian on his back with the help of his parents, and tilt his chin so that enough air could flow to his lungs.
“That little man’s obsessed with me taking him fishing, so I told him if he let me hold him down I would take him fishing,” Kutz said.
It took the ambulance about eight minutes to arrive and take Christian to the emergency room, said Christina Polanco. It turns out he had contracted croup, an upper airway respiratory infection, and doctors said had Christina Polanco continued to hold her son, he would have died.
“It hit me that if he had not been there, I would have killed him by not doing the proper things,” she said. “I thought maternal instincts were the best in the world, but now I think the Army’s training is better than that.”
The two soldiers, both part of the 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command, deployed together last year, and both agree that when it is your child in danger, it’s not so easy to stay clear-headed.
“A couple months back I gave CPR at a motorcycle accident, but when it was my own son, I was a mess,” Louis Polanco said.
“If Lou was in my situation, he would have done the same thing,” said Kutz. “I didn’t even think anything of it until the next morning when they told me what the doctor said it was. I feel like I helped save my little buddy’s life.”
The Polancos said they will never know how to say thanks for what Kutz did for their son.
“I tell him ‘thank you’ every day I see him,” said Louis Polanco. “I tell him I would have choked and my son might not be alive. I’m just thankful that he was there.”