Longtime diner waitress sees customer’s strange behavior and steps up to become unexpected hero

June 28, 2018 1:45 pm Last Updated: June 28, 2018 1:45 pm

It started off as just another normal day at work for one waitress—but during an unexpected emergency, she stepped up to become a hero.

Joann Leser, from Minneapolis, has been a waitress at the Crystal Café for over 20 years. She’s been there long enough that she knows many of her customers by name, and started way back when the diner had a different name.

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But even after decades on the job, she never experienced anything like what she saw on June 2.

On a Saturday morning shift, Leser saw a customer acting strangely.

“She was walking to the bathroom pretty fast and I thought she was going to get sick,” Leser told KARE 11.

“And then, she came out seconds later waving her hands.”

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Leser quickly realized what was really going on:

The customer was choking.

Leser had never encountered a choking customer before, and had no emergency training. But, drawing from what she had seen on TV shows, she jumped into action and performed the Heimlich maneuver.

“I could see the panic in her eyes,” Leser said. “I knew she was choking. So I spun her around. It was two Heimlich maneuvers, she spit out and was gasping for air.”

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Luckily, the customer was okay, thanks to Leser’s quick thinking.

After spitting out the obstructive food, the customer hugged Leser and returned to her table as usual. “She went back to her boyfriend to eat her breakfast,” Leser said.

For Leser, taking action like this was far from typical behavior.

“I would expect I’d be the one picking up the phone calling 911 not jumping into action,” she told KARE.

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But the incident has inspired her to be prepared for the next emergency.

She plans to take first aid and CPR training.

As for the customer she saved, Leser hopes they’ll cross paths again—hopefully when she won’t need the Heimlich.

“I’m hoping to see her in the restaurant again,” Leser said. “She comes in on weekends with her boyfriend, I guess. I don’t even know her name.”

It’s an inspiring story. Leser has been at the same job for 20 years, but was suddenly in the right place at the right time to become a life-saving hero.

(KARE 11/Screenshot)