When Sydney Raley of Edina, Minnesota, clocked in for her Saturday afternoon shift at a McDonald’s in Eden Prairie, she expected it to be a typical day.
The 15-year-old has worked at the Golden Arches location for around seven months, so she was used to the “lunch rush.” She made coffee, made drinks, and performed other routine tasks.
The monotony of the day was interrupted by a frightening incident.
When Sydney popped her head out on the drive-thru window to inform a customer that the rest of her order would be ready in a few, the teen noticed that the woman didn’t look okay.
The unidentified female was “coughing like crazy” and “gagging” as her “freaked out” daughter in the passenger seat watched in panic.
Sydney immediately understood what was happening—the woman was choking and running out of air.
Sydney told her manager and the woman’s daughter to call 911 as she jumped out of the drive-thru window to aid the woman.
She was 11 when she took a Red Cross babysitting course. All of her training kicked in at that point.
Sydney remembered the Heimlich maneuver so she tried it on the woman. However, she wasn’t strong enough for the maneuver to work even after doing it a couple of times.
Sydney saw a man waiting in the lot to order his food and asked him for help. The pair then worked together to dislodge the chicken nugget stuck in the woman’s throat.
“It could’ve ended a lot worse but I am super thankful for that bystander who helped so much,” Sydney told Kare 11 of the heart-stopping moment. “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.”
Two Eden Prairie police officers responded to the call and checked on the woman to make sure she was safe. They also came with a reward of $100 in cash for Sydney’s heroic efforts.
The money came from the police department’s crime fund. Each officer is given $50, which they can give to citizens who demonstrate “outstanding work.”
“She is well-deserving of that money,” Sergeant Scott Mittelstadt said. “We need more of her in this world.”
Sydney’s parents, Tom and Stephanie, were shocked when they pulled up to the restaurant to pick her up at the end of her shift.
“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 told CNN. “And sure enough Sydney is sitting outside waiting for us to pick her up and says: “So this happened today.”
Tom said that their daughter, who they refer to as “Sydney Sunshine,” was diagnosed with autism when she was younger—a condition that he credited for her ability to remember the Heimlich training she got four years ago.
“I always tell her she has a gift, because she’s autistic,” Tom said. “She can remember anything – do anything. It’s crazy.”
Stephanie agreed, stating that Sydney is an exceptional individual.
“She remembered all of the 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,” the proud mother said.
Sydney’s employer is also proud of her life-saving efforts.
“Sydney truly personifies what it is to be a hero and we are incredibly lucky to have her as a highly-valued crew member,” said Franchise owner Paul Ostergaard.
Despite getting $100 for her good deed, Sydney’s greatest takeaway from this incident is that she can make a difference.
“[It feels] like I’m actually capable of contributing to society and actually capable of making a difference,” she said.
Good job, Sydney! You can watch the heroic teen’s interview with Kare 11 in the video below.
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