Nurse Saves Baby Who Stopped Breathing on Spirit Airlines Flight, and Passengers Applaud

Child stopped breathing 30 minutes after takeoff.

It's a parent's nightmare: A baby stops breathing while on an airplane flight. That's the very real situation the parents of an infant found themselves facing this month, when their three-month-old daughter went into respiratory distress a mere thirty minutes after takeoff. Thankfully, a retired nurse was onboard, and her quick thinking may have saved the little girl's life. It even prevented an emergency landing. Read on to see what happened.   

1
Crisis Unfolds 30 Minutes After Takeoff

Fox35

On Thursday night, Spirit Airlines Flight 1691 was about half an hour into its flight from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Orlando, Florida, when a three-month-old named Anjelé suddenly stopped breathing. Tamara Panzino, a nurse with 20 years of experience, sprang into action, Fox 35 Orlando reported, thanks to the eyewitness account of a member of the station's on-air staff.

"On my flight back from Pittsburgh to Orlando, a baby stopped breathing three rows ahead of me," tweeted Fox 35 meteorologist Ian Cassette. "Thankfully a nurse (Tamara Panzino) was able to get the baby to breathe again." Keep reading to see the video.

2
Retired Nurse Rushes to Baby in Distress

Fox35

Panzino was looking forward to nothing but a cruise vacation when everything changed in an instant. "I was reading my book, not paying attention, had my earbuds in. And I heard a flight attendant say, 'We have an infant not breathing,'" she told WESH.

Panzino rushed to the child and her parents, who were seated at the back of the plane. "I had no idea whether the baby was choking, if the airway was clear. I did not know what I was dealing with," she said. "Saw an infant, the head was back, blue lips, skin turning blue. Clearly in distress. Not breathing. And my heart just dropped."

3
"Sternal Rub" Performed to Stimulate Breathing

The doctor is using two fingers to press down in the middle of the baby's chest
Shutterstock

Upon learning the infant wasn't choking and hadn't been doing anything before she stopped breathing, the retired nurse started massaging the baby's chest. "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," said Panzino.

As they began moving toward the front of the plane, the situation improved. "The baby's color started looking better," said Panzino. "I was so glad and kept shaking it aggressively."

Soon, the baby's heartbeat and breath were normal, and Panzino did not have to perform CPR. After the crisis was over, Cassette recorded the passengers applauding Panzino.

4
Cause of Medical Crisis Unclear

Mother and infant daughter travel by plane.
Shutterstock

The cause of the newborn's respiratory distress was unclear. The baby girl's parents, who have not been named, said she had a similar health crisis before. "They praised the positive energy of the plane and the heroic actions of Tamara for saving her," tweeted Cassette.

5
"It Was Just a Happy Story"

Fox35

"When you have to step forward and do what's right, you do it. It was just a happy story, and it made me feel really good," Panzino told Fox 35. The flight did not have to stop for an emergency landing and arrived at its destination seven minutes ahead of schedule.

6
Airline Responds With Gratitude

Spirit Airlines planes at airport terminal
YES Market Media / Shutterstock

"We're currently gathering information to learn more. We thank our crew and guest for the quick response," Spirit Airlines said in a statement. "Our Flight Attendants are trained to respond to medical emergencies onboard and utilize several resources, including communicating with our designated on-call medical professionals on the ground, using onboard medical kits, and receiving assistance from credentialed medical professionals traveling on the flight."

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more
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