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Crystal Cafe waitress saves choking victim

After 20 years of working at the same cafe, Joann Leser had to jump into action to save a life last weekend.

MINNEAPOLIS - Joann Leser is a waitress at Crystal Café, and has been for more than 20 years.

But in all her years there, she says she's never encountered a person choking on food. That is, until this past Saturday morning.

"She was walking to the bathroom pretty fast and I thought she was going to get sick," she said, recalling the incident. "And then, she came out seconds later waving her hands."

Leser was shocked but says she rushed into action, performing the Heimlich maneuver, something she says she learned from watching TV shows.

"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."

Leser said she was thankful the woman was OK.

“We just gave each other a hug and it was the middle of a busy rush," she said. "She went back to her boyfriend to eat her breakfast.”

Leser says the situation unfolded within seconds before anyone had a chance to dial 911.

"I would expect I'd be the one picking up the phone calling 911 not jumping into action," she said.

She is now recommending that everyone learn CPR and 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."

Joann says she plans to take first aid training, including CPR.

The Red Cross and the American Heart Association offer courses.

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