Miami-Dade County

Family of baby revived on Miami’s Dolphin Expressway reveals he had trachea problems

It has been two weeks since baby Sebastián de la Cruz stopped breathing while his aunt was at the wheel in heavy traffic on the Dolphin Expressway — a near-tragedy and rescue documented by a news photograph beamed around the world.

On Wednesday, the aunt, Pamela Rauseo, and the baby’s parents, Paola Vargas and Robinson de la Cruz, held a news conference to update the baby’s condition and chronicle the unexpected turns the family’s lives have taken since the day Sebastián nearly died.

Feb. 20 started like any other day for Rauseo. De la Cruz had not made it back on time from a business trip to Atlanta, and her sister asked her to take Sebastián to a doctor’s appointment. On their way, they got stuck in traffic — a typical experience on the Dolphin. But this time, the baby stopped breathing.

Rauseo jumped out of the car, desperately screaming for help. Behind her was Miami Herald news photographer Al Diaz, who alerted a police officer.

At the end of the night, Diaz’s image of Rauseo reviving 5-month-old Sebastián on the expressway was published by news outlets worldwide.

Sebastián went home last Friday when his condition had stabilized after more than a week in the hospital. Doctors discovered and removed three cysts from the baby’s trachea that were making it difficult for him to breathe. His parents said they would never have known the procedure needed to be done had Sebastián not stopped breathing in his aunt’s car that day on State Road 836.

Rauseo said the family was overwhelmed. While their main concern was for the baby’s health, the onslaught of local and international media was hard to deal with.

“We didn’t know how to handle all this, and it was uncomfortable for me,” Rauseo said Wednesday at the Hachar Law Firm in Miami Lakes. “The truth is that it got out of our control.”

Rauseo, who has three children, will be recognized by the Red Cross on March 13. Her story has helped create awareness of the importance of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training.

A trust has been set up for Sebastián at

Sebastián’s young parents said Wednesday they foresee a brilliant future for him. The child was born prematurely after Vargas, who is a nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital, noticed he was ceasing to move in her womb.

“They did a C-section, and thank God he was born all right,” she said. “I believe he is destined for something great because he has been given back to me twice.”

The day of the incident Vargas was on duty at the hospital when she received a call from her sister. Rauseo was trying to sound calm, something Vargas said she has learned to read as a sign that something is wrong.

“She told me to go to the emergency room,” she said. “When I got there I found my mother crying in a corner, but my sister calmly explained what had happened.”

Rauseo thought it was the best way.

“I am a mother and know how desperate you feel when something happens to your child,” she said. “That’s how I knew that I had to tell her in person, after I knew that everything was all right.”

Related stories from Miami Herald