At our company we like to recognize all employees for their outstanding work but most recently we want to recognize an employee that went above and beyond. One of our employees was featured in an article from the Antelope Valley Press in Palmdale, CA. Read below on how one of our crew members saved a young boy’s life.
Out of nowhere, she was right there behind him
by William Warford, Antelope Valley Press
It was a teary reunion Friday at the Souplantation restaurant in Palmdale, but they were tears of joy. It could have been so different.
“I didn’t think it would be so emotional,” said Ali Villalobos, smiling and wiping away a tear at the same time. She brought her 2- year-old son Caleb Ventura back to the restaurant to greet and formally thank employee Leila Munoz for what she did exactly one week before.
The previous Friday, Ali (pronounced Allie) Villalobos and her son were having lunch at the Souplantation, as they often do. But this time Villalobos’ mom wasn’t available to come along, and when Villalobos stepped away about six feet and turned to refill Caleb’s drink, the tot reached over to her plate, grabbed a crouton and popped it in his mouth. It only takes a second.
His mom returned to the table and noticed something wasn’t quite right. “At first I thought he was just a little antsy, or maybe he’d just taken too big a bite,” she said. “But then he opened his mouth and I couldn’t see anything. He started flailing his legs and waving his arms, and changing color. I said, ‘He’s not breathing!’ ”
Caleb made no sound and Villalobos sensed that horrible feeling that her worst nightmare was actually happening right before her eyes.
It’s that this-isn’t-really-happening feeling. But it was happening.
Leila Munoz noticed it, too, as she looked up from her work clearing tables.
To Villalobos, Munoz came on the scene like some sort of angel: “Out of nowhere, she was right there behind him, and she was so calm. She said, ‘You need to clear his airway because he’s not breathing.’ ”
Villalobos reached in with her fingers but the object in Caleb’s airway was too far down to clear, and Munoz realized it immediately.
“So she lifted him up. By this time his lips were blue. She was so calm. I couldn’t believe how calm she was. She said, ‘Let me push on his stomach.’ She did it and out came this half a crouton. It flew out; I actually caught it in my hand. All his air came back and people started clapping because they’d seen what was happening.”
Villalobos was overwhelmed. “It was the most wonderful thing. And she said to me, ‘You did a good job, mom,’ even though she was the one who did it, and then she went back to work like it was no big deal.
She went back to clearing tables. What an amazing, humble woman.”
Munoz was quiet and humble when it happened not even mentioning the incident to co-workers who hadn’t seen it and she remained humble at Friday’s reunion. “I have four kids of my own, and two nieces and one more on the way, so I’m around kids all the time,” she said. “So I think it was just a natural thing, being a mom.”
It was up to Juan Moreno, the Souplantation general manager, to tell the other employees because Munoz wasn’t going to say a word. “I told everybody,” Moreno said. “We’re so proud of Leila. She just said it was a natural reaction, but it was heroic. The mom was in tears, she couldn’t believe how Leila just jumped in.”
And then went back to work.
“Yes, and then went back to work,” Moreno said with a laugh. “She was
like: ‘Let me go save this baby’s life, then I’ve got two dirty tables to clear.’ She just went about her day. But we’re like family here, and we’re proud of this member of our family. One of our crew members was in tears when she heard what Leila did.”
And Friday’s reunion brought tears all around. “How can I ever thank her for what she did?” Villalobos said.
For his part, Caleb handed Munoz some flowers Friday and grew a tad impatient as the two women hugged and cried. His mom told him he’ll read about this day when he’s older. Then he sat down to a nice lunch, compliments of Souplantation.
William P. Warford’s column appears every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday in the Antelope Valley Press. Contact him at (661) 267-4166; P.O. Box 4050, Palmdale, CA, 93590-4050; or William.Warford@avpress.com.