MIAMI -- One day after a worldwide outpouring of support and prayers for the unconscious baby boy rescued by motorists stuck in traffic on the Dolphin Expressway, his aunt and doctors announced Friday that five-month-old Sebastian de la Cruz is on the mend. And they urged everyone following the story to become certified in CPR to be able to save a life in a similar situation.
Little Sebastian, born prematurely, was fighting a respiratory infection and crying as he rode with his aunt 37-year-old Pamela Rauseo of Miami westbound on the 836 Thursday afternoon. When he abruptly stopped crying, Rauseo realized something was wrong and stopped just east of 57th Avenue. Traffic soon backed up behind her SUV.
"I pulled over and went back and checked on him and he was already uncon
scious," Rauseo told reporters gathered at Jackson Memorial Hospital on Friday. "I couldn't fail. I had to get this baby well."
Rauseo and her husband had passed a CPR course seven years previously after an episode where 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 screamed for help to stalled motorists nearby, then tried her best to breathe life into her nephew.
Around her, drivers rushed to the rescue.
Lucila Godoy left her three-year-old son in the car to help. Miami Herald photographer Al Diaz, stopped right behind Rauseo, jogged through lines of cars asking if anyone knew CPR. He found Sweetwater police officer Amauris Bastidas, who rushed in and took over from Godoy, performing chest compressions as Rauseo breathed into the infant's mouth.
Rauseo was very grateful for the help.
"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."
Rauseo and Bastidas got Sebastian breathing but then he stopped, so they resumed resuscitation efforts until he regained consciousness. By then, two Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officers arrived, followed by a Miami Fire Rescue ambulance which rushed Sebastian to the hospital.
Dr. Juan Solano said Friday the baby is in stable condition in the Holtz Pediatric Critical Care unit "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," Solano said.
Sebastian's mother, Paola Vargas, did not appear at the 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."
News outlets throughout the U.S. and from as far away as Australia, Germany and Brazil covered the story after Diaz's graphic, moving photos of Sebastian's rescue hit the Internet Thursday.
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 doctors said 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.
Rauseo vowed to take a refresher course.
"I thought I'd never need it," she said. "I must have done a thousand things wrong but somehow it worked. I've gotten tons of messages from strangers that found me telling me they are going to get certified."