Sunday, February 18, 2024

A baby stopped breathing on a packed Miami highway

Tuesday, February 20, marks 10 years since Pamela Rauseo’s heroic efforts saved her nephew’s life.

When to take a photograph? The ethics and privacy of photographing a person in grief or tragedy, and when to step in to help or to comfort a person, has been the subject of discussion for years in my profession of photojournalism.

As a photojournalist at the Miami Herald for the past 40 years, these issues have always been on my mind. During disasters, turmoil, tragedy, defeat, and death, the emotions seen on my subject’s faces can be extreme. When to press the shutter button and when to stop is not always clear.

Ten years ago, a traumatic life or death event unfolded before my eyes. Stopped in traffic on Miami’s State Road 836 Dolphin Expressway, Pamela Rauseo stepped out of her SUV screaming as she carried a 5-month-old baby who was not breathing and was turning blue.

Instantly, I jumped out of my car to help as traffic sped past us. Inexperienced to properly perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), I did the best thing that came to mind; I flagged down other motorists. A woman named Lucila Godoy, stopped to help. I turned and spotted a police car and ran through traffic until I reached Sweetwater Police Officer Amauris Bastidas, who then raced to the scene. Through the lifesaving techniques of CPR by Rauseo, the baby began breathing again.
I rushed back to my car and saw four police officers and Godoy helping. I stepped back and paused. I did not want Rauseo to see me taking pictures. My heart did not want to inflict more stress on this traumatized woman, but I know that history demonstrates that compelling images can produce unforeseen and often beneficial results.

A still photograph can change the course of history, affect policy, raise awareness, and cause leaders to act. In this case, maybe inspire others to become trained in CPR and swiftly offer aid to those in dire need.

So, I grabbed my cameras and began documenting what I saw. Little Sebastian de la Cruz stopped breathing for a second time, and his aunt Pamela Rauseo again performed CPR.
I captured the breath of life in a still photograph.

The image went viral around the world. In response, television and radio broadcasters stressed the need for people to learn CPR to save lives.

My photograph raised that awareness. Years of experience prepared me for that day. My first role is to respond to those in need before I respond as a photojournalist.

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