Joann Leser has been waiting tables at Crystal Cafe for 20 years, but she’s never experienced anything like what happened when a couple came in for breakfast one Saturday morning. After bringing their food, Joann saw the female customer run for the bathroom. The woman returned only seconds later in a full panic.
Joann Leser had just arrived for her normal Saturday morning shift at Crystal Cafe in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The low-key eatery supplies homestyle American meals and ample, all-day breakfast classics. Everything was going as usual until a couple came in for breakfast.
Since it was Saturday morning, the restaurant was packed with people eating breakfast, and Joann was busy serving her customers. But in the middle of ringing in orders and filling up coffee cups, the seasoned waitress noticed a woman get up out of her seat and run for the bathroom.
The woman seemed to be in distress, so Joann assumed that she was sick. She didn’t know that something far worse was actually happening. “She was walking to the bathroom pretty fast, and I thought she was going to get sick,” Joann told KARE 11. “And then, she came out seconds later waving her hands.”
Just 15 seconds after the customer entered the bathroom, she reemerged and began frantically waving her hands. It was then that Joann realized an emergency was unfolding right before her eyes and that things could turn deadly if she did not act fast.
Without hesitating, Joann ran over to the woman and spun her around. The waitress noticed the “panic in her eyes” as she desperately tried to breathe. The customer was choking, and she didn’t have much time left. She would suffocate to death if somebody didn’t do something.
Joann began the Heimlich maneuver process, even though she had only ever seen it done on television and had never practiced it herself. Despite Joann’s lack of experience, though, after just two thrusts, the choking woman was able to spit out her food and breathe again. “I could see the panic in her eyes,” said Joann, recalling the harrowing incident. “I knew she was choking. So I spun her around. It was two Heimlich maneuvers, she spit out and was gasping for air.”
The entire situation unfolded so quickly that nobody even had time to call 911. Less than a minute after the woman had run into the bathroom, Joann was being hailed as a hero. However, if Joann had waited around for paramedics to arrive on the scene, it likely would have been too late to save her customer. “We just gave each other a hug and it was the middle of a busy rush,” said Joann. “She went back to her boyfriend to eat her breakfast.”
Joann doesn’t even know the woman’s name, but she hopes that she returns to Crystal Cafe to eat again. Next time, hopefully, it will be a more peaceful meal, sans a scary choking episode.