IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Teen jumps through McDonald’s drive-thru window to save choking customer

The 15-year-old remembered her Heimlich maneuver training.
Sydney Raley, outside her office.
Sydney Raley, outside her office.@EvaKare11 / Twitter
/ Source: TODAY

Fast food requires fast workers, and thanks to a fast-thinking, fast-acting worker at a McDonald's in Edina, Minnesota, the life of a customer has been saved.

Sydney Raley is being hailed as a hero for acting on instinct while working at the fast-food restaurant over the weekend. While handing food to guests at the drive-thru window, she noticed one of the customers was struggling.

"Close to the end of my shift, I was serving a woman when I noticed she was coughing a lot," the teen told TODAY Food. "Her daughter, who was in the passenger seat, was also nervous."

Realizing she was choking, Raley vaulted through the large drive-thru window (she compares it to "hopping a fence") and took action.

After telling the woman's daughter to call 911, Raley began administering the Heimlich maneuver, which helps people expel food thanks to hands pressed on the sternum, on the woman.

"I remembered First-Aid training from a little over four years ago, and it absolutely helped," she said.

But she wasn't strong enough to help completely, so she flagged down a bystander who was then able to get what turned out to be a rogue chicken nugget from the woman's throat, as NBC affiliate KARE reported.

The exterior of the McDonald's in Edina, Minnesota.
The exterior of the McDonald's in Edina, Minnesota.Kare 11 / Youtube

"(I)f it weren’t for him and our efforts together," Raley told the news station, "it could’ve ended so much worse."

Two police reps gave Raley $50 each after responding to the scene and hearing what she'd done; the money is part of a fund given to help out citizens around the holiday season.

"We are incredibly proud of Sydney and her quick, heroic actions over the weekend to help one of our valued customers," Paul Ostergaard, McDonald's franchise owner-operator, told TODAY in a 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."

Turns out that jumping through that window isn't such a big deal; Raley says customers drop credit cards and cash all the time, so she's used to pulling what she and her friends call a "Batman maneuver."

Tom and Stephanie Raley, Sydney's parents, also spoke to KARE and said they credit her incredible memory for giving her the confidence to take action.

"She remembered all of the (Heimlich) 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," Stephanie said.

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

"I never felt like having autism was a setback," Raley told TODAY. "It's kind of like a pair of glasses: specially-made lenses to see the world in a unique way. If there was anything to gain from this experience, at the very least I want people to know that autism isn't this scary monster — it's just a more prominent way of showing that no two people are alike."