Retired nurse saves baby's life on flight to Florida

Tamara Panzino performs sternal rub on child
Posted at 2:34 PM, Sep 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-12 14:34:02-04

ORLANDO, Fla. — A retired nurse ran to the back of a plane and saved a 3-month-old infant who had stopped breathing during a flight to Florida last week.

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 earbuds in," Panzino said. "I heard a flight attendant say, 'We have an infant not breathing.'"

Soon after, an announcement came over the public address system asking if there was a doctor on board. She got up and ran to the back of the plane.

"I didn't know what I was dealing with. I saw an infant," Panzino said. "The head was back and blue lips, skin turning blue, clearly in distress, not breathing, and my heart just dropped."

Even though she is a retired nurse, her years of experience kicked in. A round of questions revealed that the infant was not doing anything when she stopped breathing.

"I gave daddy the baby, held it while I did a sternal rub, kind of an aggressive shake of the chest," she said.

They were then moving to the front of the plane when the child started to show improvement.

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

She did not have to perform CPR and calls it a team effort.

"I heard breathing sounds. I heard the heartbeat, Panzino said. [I felt] total relief."

She pushed 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.

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