California Highway Patrol officer Kevin Preinitz was only on the job for four months when he responded to reports about a potential drunk driver. Little did he know, this call was fate.
911 calls had been pouring in about an erratic driver on the San Diego Freeway. Preinitz was the first to spot the car, and the sight seemed to confirm the reports—the car was badly damaged.
“She was going relatively slow on the freeway, probably about 35 miles an hour,” Preinitz recalled to CBS. “But her front left tire was completely shredded so she was basically just driving on the wheel.”
“It looked like she had collided with the center wall.”
Preinitz followed the car as it crossed over four lanes of traffic and exited the freeway.
When the officer finally managed to pull the car over, he was expecting to make a DUI arrest.
Instead, he got one look at the woman’s face and realized the situation was very different.
She was having a stroke.
“She had slurred speech, the left side of her face was somewhat droopy, and she was drooling out of the left side of her face,” Preinitz told CBS.
Preinitz recognized the symptoms, and Byron was rushed to Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance, where doctors confirmed she had suffered a stroke.
The woman was Kathy Byron—and by her account, she wasn’t aware of her condition at all. She had woken up with a headache that morning, but otherwise felt fine.
“Physically, I didn’t know there was anything going on,” she told CBS.
She did sense there was something wrong with her vehicle, however, and knew enough to exit the freeway when Preinitz found her.
Byron has fully recovered and only spent a day in the hospital. But she was emotionally shaken by the experience, which could’ve been fatal for her—or others.
“I still can’t believe it happened,” a tearful Byron told CBS. “I can’t believe that I’m okay. I can’t believe I didn’t hurt anybody else on that freeway.”
But the real miracle is that it was Officer Preinitz who pulled her over.
Preinitz had received medical training as an EMT—a background most officers don’t have. It’s a fortunate and life-saving coincidence that an officer who recognized the signs happened to be there, or else she might not have received the proper medical care on time.
Preinitz received a police honor a month later but shrugged off any suggestion of heroism, believing he was just doing his job.
But the twist of fate was not lost on Byron, who was reunited with the officer who saved her life at the ceremony.