A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer in New Jersey has been hailed a hero after springing into action to save a choking baby this week, and a video of the lifesaving moment has gone viral.
TSA Officer Cecilia Morales was filmed jumping over a security conveyor belt at Newark Liberty International Airport after a young mother realized that her 2-month-old was not breathing. Morales, who is a trained emergency medical technician (EMT), heard the mother screaming for help and realized that she needed to act quickly in order to save the infant’s life.
« [The mother] was so nervous and I knew if I didn’t get over there, it wasn’t going to be a good outcome, » Morales said, according to a press release from the TSA. « I jumped over the checkpoint conveyor belt rollers and she gave me the baby. I performed the infant Heimlich maneuver on him. »
Video footage shows the mother handing the baby to Morales, who quickly placed him face down on her arm and began patting him on the back until he started breathing. As of Friday morning, the video had been viewed over 100,000 times.
« The mother was too nervous and in shock to hold her son, so I carried the infant through the walkthrough metal detector, » Morales said, adding that she then waited for the pediatric EMT to arrive to give the baby oxygen.
As an EMT, Morales had previously performed the Heimlich maneuver on adults and children, but this was the first time she had ever done the technique on an infant. She said watching the video footage of herself afterward was « mind-blowing. »
« It was the first time I’ve ever seen myself in action, saving a life. It was mind-blowing to watch. I felt that my training and experience just took over, » she told the TSA.
Morales worked as an EMT for 10 years in New Jersey, and had only joined the Newark airport as a TSA agent two months ago.
« Two months on the job and she’s literally a lifesaver, » said Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security director for New Jersey, according to the TSA release. « Officer Morales’s quick reaction and actions helped ensure that this family will have a happy holiday season. Her actions were inspiring. »
TSA Manager Ayrana Frazier added that watching Morales jump into action made security officials « proud to call her one of our own. »
« If Officer Morales did not utilize her critical thinking, knowledge and quick response, perhaps we could have had a terrible outcome, » Frazier said. « In the moment Officer Morales was selfless, and her priority was to save a life. »
The New York Department of Health says that choking is the fourth-leading cause of unintentional death in children under age 5. At least one child dies from choking on food every five days in the U.S., while more than 12,000 children are taken to a hospital emergency room each year for food-choking injuries, according to the department.