A day after a photographer’s lens happen to catch a frantic roadside effort by motorists to save an unconscious infant, the baby’s aunt and doctor announced Friday that he was stable.
While still in a critical care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital, 5-month-old Sebastian de la Cruz managed to share a smile with nurses and doctors.
But on Thursday, little Sebastian, who was born prematurely, was fighting a respiratory infection and crying as his aunt was headed west on the Dolphin Expressway. When he abruptly stopped crying, Pamela Rauseo, 37, of Miami, knew something was wrong.
She stopped her SUV on the expressway just east of 57th Avenue and immediately jumped out screaming that her nephew had stopped breathing.
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The baby was turning blue. Traffic soon backed up.
The dramatic scene unfolded before Miami Herald photographer Al Diaz, who also was stuck in traffic. Diaz ran through stalled traffic, shouting to get help. He quickly got the attention of Sweetwater police officer Amauris Bastidas, who rushed to help perform CPR.
Then Diaz grabbed his camera, snapping off a series of pictures, capturing the heroic efforts of Bastidas and others to save little Sebastian.
On Friday morning, news outlets throughout the U.S. and from as far away as Australia, Germany and Brazil covered the story after Diaz’s moving photos of Rauseo and other motorists performing CPR on Sebastian hit the Internet.
Dr. Juan Solano said Friday that the baby is in stable condition in Jackson’s Holtz Pediatric Critical Care unit and is “under very close observation” with no timetable for when he might go home.
“We do think he had been having respiratory issues, which were made worse by a respiratory infection he had recently,” he said.
Solano and Dr. Judy Schaechter, interim chief of pediatrics at University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, said they want to use the intense media focus on the incident to encourage everyone to become certified in CPR.
“Cases like Sebastian’s happen every day,” Solano said. “It is fortunate it happened with a good result, so you can spread the message that CPR training is important and Sebastian was saved by CPR.”
The course can be taken in 30 minutes online, followed by another 15-30-minute in-person session with the Red Cross or American Heart Association, Solano said.
On Friday, Rauseo remembered the desperate efforts to save her nephew when she stopped her SUV in traffic.
“He was already unconscious,” Rauseo told reporters Friday at a hastily called press conference at Jackson Memorial Hospital where Sebastian was being treated. “I couldn’t fail. I had to get this baby well.”
Rauseo and her husband had passed a CPR course seven years previously after one of their sons briefly stopped breathing. But she had never used her training and she was rusty. With the baby now limp and turning blue, Rauseo tried her best to breathe life into her nephew.
Around her, people rushed to help, encouraging her.
“I was a really hot mess,” she said. “If it hadn’t been for them, I don’t know if I would have had the presence of mind to do what needed to be done. The people with me calmed me down and told me I could do it.”
A Miami Fire Rescue ambulance quickly arrived and rushed Sebastian to Jackson.
Sebastian’s mother, Paola Vargas, did not appear at Friday’s news conference, but Rauseo said her younger sister is “well under the circumstances. She’s grateful she has her baby with her and she’s hopeful that whatever it is has a simple solution.”
Rauseo also vowed to take a refresher CPR course.
“I thought I’d never need it,” she said. “I’ve gotten tons of messages from strangers that found me telling me they are going to get certified.”