Retired nurse helps save infant's life on Spirit Airlines flight

Marnie Hunter, CNNPublished 12th September 2022
A Spirit Airlines Airbus A320-232 takes off at the Orlando International Airport in November 2020. The budget airline is weighing competing takeover offers from JetBlue Airways of New York and Frontier Airlines of Denver. A sale to either will have an impact on employees, local facilities and the traveling public. (
(CNN) — A retired nurse came to the aid of a baby who had stopped breathing on a Spirit Airlines flight last week from Pittsburgh to Orlando.
Tamara Panzino told CNN affiliate WESH that she was reading a book with her earbuds in when she "heard a flight attendant say, 'we have an infant not breathing.'"
An announcement shortly after asked if there was a doctor on board. The retired nurse ran to the back of the plane to see if she could help.
"I didn't know what I was dealing with," Panzino told WESH. "I saw an infant. The head was just back. And blue lips ... And my heart just dropped."
Panzino asked some questions and got to work, handing the three-month-old baby to the father.
"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 told WESH.
The baby's color came back, and Panzino did not have to perform CPR.
The incident occurred on Spirit flight 1691 from Pittsburgh to Orlando on Thursday, the airline confirmed.
"We extend our deepest gratitude to Tamara for coming to the aid [of] our guests, and we applaud our crew for their quick response," the airline said in a statement provided to CNN Travel.
"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," Spirit said in the statement.
Panzino said the airline had everything the team needed to respond on board.
She said they knew within a couple minutes that "we were home free."
"The baby was going to be good. The color came back. I heard breathing sounds. Heard a heartbeat. Oh, my gosh, total relief."