Retired nurse saves baby who stopped breathing on flight to Orlando

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    ORLANDO, Florida (WESH) — The retired nurse who saved a 3-month-old infant during a flight Thursday night from Pittsburgh to Orlando International sat down with WESH and told her amazing story.

Tamara Panzino was already in vacation mode 35 minutes into her Spirit Airlines flight.

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

Soon after, an announcement came over the speaker, “Is there a doctor onboard?”

Panzino said she got up and ran to the back of the plane.

“I had no idea whether the baby was choking, if the airway was clear,” Panzino said. “I did not know what I was dealing with. Saw an infant. The head was back. Blue lips and her skin turning blue. Clearly in distress. Not breathing. And my heart just dropped.”

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

“Gave daddy the baby. He held it while I did a sternal rub, kind of an aggressive shake of the chest. Get the baby to react by pinching it. Trying to make it cry or take a deep breath,” Panzino said.

They moved to the front of the plane.

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

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

“Spirit had everything we needed right onboard, and before we knew, within a few minutes, the baby was home free. The baby was going to be good. The color came back. I heard breathing sounds. I heard (a) heartbeat. Oh, my gosh, total relief.”

Panzino pushes back on being called a hero.

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

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

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