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Retired nurse saves baby who stopped breathing on flight

When Tamara Panzino heard a flight attendant say a 3-month-old on board wasn't breathing, she jumped out of her seat to help.
/ Source: TODAY

A retired nurse is being hailed as a hero after she saved a 3-month-old baby's life aboard a Spirit Airlines flight on Thursday.

Tamara Panzino told NBC affiliate WESH she felt like her vacation had already started about 35 minutes into the flight, which was going from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Orlando, Florida.

"I was reading my book, not paying attention and had my earbuds in," Panzino told WESH. "And I heard a flight attendant say, 'We have an infant not breathing.'"

After the flight attendant asked over the loudspeaker if there was a doctor on board, Panzino said she jumped out of her seat to the back of the plane to tend to 3-month old Anjelé.

"I had no idea whether the baby was choking, if the airway was clear," she 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."

"(I) gave daddy the baby," she continued. "He held it while I did a sternal rub, kind of an aggressive shake of the chest. Trying to make it cry or take a deep breath."

Panzino said the family and group of staff moved to the front of the plane once the baby started looking better. "The baby’s color started looking better. I was so glad and kept shaking it aggressively," she added.

The retired nurse said she did not have to perform CPR and commended the Spirit Airlines staff for having "everything we needed right on board."

"Within a few minutes, the baby was home free. The baby was going to be good," Panzino said. "I heard breathing sounds. I heard (a) heartbeat. Oh my gosh, total relief."

Ian Cassette, a meteorologist for Fox affiliate WOFL who was on the flight, said in a tweet he spoke to the child's family after the incident.

"They praised the positive energy of the plane and the heroic actions of Tamara for saving her," Cassette said.

Spirit Airlines said in a statement to TODAY it trains flight attendants to respond to medical emergencies onboard, including asking for assistance from medical professionals traveling on the flight.

"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 company said.

"It’s not a hero thing," Panzino said of those calling her actions heroic. "It’s a community coming together and everyone volunteering to help with what their knowledge can do. I’m glad I was there."

The flight landed safely in Orlando following the incident, and Panzino headed out on a Royal Caribbean cruise out of Cape Canaveral, Florida, over the weekend, WESH reports.