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Teen McDonald's employee leaps through drive-through window to save choking customer

Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A 15-year-old McDonald's employee executed a dramatic rescue after a customer began choking in her vehicle, which was idling outside the restaurant's drive-through window.

What are the details?

Sydney Raley of Edina, Minnesota, said that her Saturday shift at the chain restaurant's Eden Prairie location began uneventfully, just like many others.

She told CNN that the day had been fairly routine, "making coffee, making drinks. Going into the lunch rush, it was all normal."

Sydney told KARE-TV that all changed as she was handing food out through the service window and a woman in apparent distress caught her eye.

"I noticed that she was coughing profusely and her daughter just had this look on her face like sheer terror," the teen recalled. "I could tell oh, crap, she’s choking! Just seeing that visceral reaction I knew we need to act fast."

Sydney said that she jumped out of the window and helped the woman out of the car while telling the woman's young daughter to call 911.

"I started doing the Heimlich maneuver, but I’m not really strong so it didn’t work the first couple times," the 15-year-old hero continued — and that's when she called over a bystander who was parked in the lot waiting for food.

The bystander, who remains unnamed at the time of this reporting, was able to successfully dislodge a chicken nugget from the panicked woman's throat.

Police said that the teen's quick-thinking bravery earned her two fresh $50 bills from the responding officers.

"Our crime fund gave every officer fifty dollars to hand out to wherever we feel the need, [including] if somebody did outstanding work, above and beyond," Sgt. Scott Mittelstadt told KARE. "She is well-deserving of that money."

Sydney added, "It could’ve ended a lot worse but I am super thankful for that bystander who helped so much. Because I am decent at first aid, but if it weren’t for him and our efforts together, it could’ve ended so much worse."

'She can remember anything — do anything'

Sydney's parents, Tom and Stephanie, told the outlet that their daughter was diagnosed with autism when she was younger and that her condition has only enhanced her abilities for quick thinking.

"I always tell her she has a gift, because she's autistic," Tom told the station. "She can remember anything — do anything. It's crazy."

Stephanie added, "She remembered all of the [first aid] training as a script in her head and was able to jump into action right away, just because it was stored up there and she can recall anything she reads and hears."

Sydney said that she feels accomplished and emboldened to serve her fellow man.

"You feel as though like — huh — I’m actually capable of contributing to society and actually like capable of making a difference."

Tom told CNN that his daughter and her autism diagnosis are nothing short of inspiring.

"We always worried it was going to be a challenge for her, and it's done a complete 180," he said. "It's actually been a blessing and a gift at this point. All the things we worried about never happened."

'Sydney truly personifies what it is to be a hero'

Franchise owner-operator Paul Ostergaard told CNN that he and the rest of the staff couldn't be more proud of Sydney and her heroism.

"We are incredibly proud of Sydney and her quick, heroic actions over the weekend to help one of our valued customers," Ostergaard told CNN in a written statement. "Sydney truly personifies what it is to be a hero and we are incredibly lucky to have her as a highly-valued crew member at our Eden Prairie restaurant location. We are excited to see all of the well-deserved recognition she has received from the community and will continue to celebrate her courageous efforts of literally jumping out of the drive-thru window to provide aid to a customer in need."

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