By Tribune News Service
A teen McDonald’s employee didn’t hesitate to spring into action to help a choking customer.

Sydney Raley, 15, was serving food out of the drive-thru window of the Minneapolis-area burger joint when she noticed something amiss.

One of her customers was coughing and gagging.

“I noticed that she was coughing profusely and her daughter just had this look on her face like sheer terror,” Sydney told WUSA9-TV. “I could tell oh, crap, she’s choking! Just seeing that visceral reaction I knew we need to act fast.”

Her work uniform briefly became a superhero costume as the teen leaped out the drive-thru window of the Eden Prairie McDonald’s, dragged the woman from her car and instructed her daughter to call 911.

Drawing on Red Cross training she had had when she was 11, Sydney began administering the Heimlich maneuver.

“All that training immediately kicked in,” Sydney told CNN.

But she wasn’t strong enough to make it work. So she called over a bystander, who succeeded in dislodging a chicken nugget from the woman’s throat.

The unidentified bystander left, and officers from the Eden Prairie Police Department arrived.

“By the time EPPD officers arrived, the woman’s airway was clear and the helpful bystander had left the scene,” the department said in a statement. “The two officers each gave Sydney a $50 bill as part of the department’s ‘Cops & Cash for the Holidays’ program which is sponsored by the Eden Prairie Crime Prevention Fund.”

It’s the second year of a program that gives officers $50 cash from the Crime Prevention Fund to distribute to someone who does good work in the community.

“We’re very proud of Sydney,” said Sgt. Scott Mittelstadt, who was supervising back at headquarters at the time. “She’s a great example of how all of us — no matter our age or position — can make a difference in our communities.”

Also proud were her parents, who were waiting around the corner to pick their daughter up when she clocked out. They didn’t know what was happening or why the emergency vehicles were on hand.

“There was an ambulance and a police car sitting there and I looked at my wife and said, ‘Please tell me that’s not something for Sydney,’ " Tom Raley told CNN. “And sure enough Sydney is sitting outside waiting for us to pick her up and says, ‘So this happened today.’ "

Her boss also noticed.

“We are incredibly proud of Sydney and her quick, heroic actions over the weekend to help one of our valued customers,” owner-operator Paul Ostergaard told CNN. “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.”

For her part, Sydney was just relieved the Heimlich — and the bystander — worked.

“I am super thankful for that bystander who helped so much,” Sydney told WUSA. “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.”

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