Retired nurse saves baby’s life on flight: ‘I’m glad I was there’

Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 3:51 AM EDT
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ORLANDO (WESH) - A retired nurse jumped into action and saved a 3-month-old infant who had stopped breathing during a flight.

Tamara Panzino was already in vacation mode 35 minutes into her Spirit Airlines flight Thursday night from Pittsburgh to Orlando.

“I was reading my book, not paying attention, had my ear buds in, and I heard a flight attendant say, ‘We have an infant not breathing,’” Panzino said.

Soon after, an announcement came over the speaker, asking if there was a doctor on board. Panzino, a retired registered nurse, got up and ran to the back of the plane to help the 3-month-old girl.

“I didn’t know what I was dealing with. I saw an infant. The head was back and blue lips, and my heart just dropped,” Panzino said.

Even though Panzino is retired, her years of nursing experience kicked in. A round of questions revealed the infant was just lying still when she stopped breathing.

“Gave daddy the baby, held it while I did a sternal rub, kind of an aggressive shake of the chest… trying to make it cry, take a deep breath,” Panzino said.

The group then moved to the front of the plane

“The baby’s color started looking better. I was so glad, but I kept shaking it aggressively,” Panzino said.

Panzino did not have to perform CPR and calls the response a team effort.

“Spirit Airlines had everything we needed right on board, and before we knew it, within a couple minutes, we were home free. The baby was going to be good. The color came back. I heard breathing sounds, a heartbeat. Total relief,” Panzino said.

She is pushing back on being called a hero.

“It’s not a hero thing. It’s a community coming together and everyone volunteering to do what their knowledge can help them do. I’m glad I was there,” she said.

After a day to decompress, Panzino was ready for her and her husband’s Caribbean cruise out of Port Canaveral over the weekend.

Spirit Airlines released a statement thanking Panzino and the crew for their quick response.