CHP Officer Kevin Preinits pulled Kathy Byron over for driving erratically last month on the San Diego (405) Freeway. But he quickly realized she was not under the influence.
Doctors at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance said she was having a stroke and the officer knew it, thanks in part to his voluntary emergency medical technician training.
"When I was told that he was trained as an EMT and most aren't, and he recognized the symptoms, I mean ... God and the angels were looking out for me," said Byron, during a reunion with the officer at the hospital on Tuesday.
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Byron is just 53, works out regularly, eats well and has no risk factors. Yet she isn't quite sure what went wrong July 9 on the 405 as she headed from her home in Irvine to LAX to catch a flight.
She knew something was wrong with the car - later she found it had sustained significant damage, but she didn't remember an accident.
She knew she had to get off the freeway.
At the same time, the CHP had received a call of a reckless driver, possibly under the influence.
Byron managed to cross four lanes of traffic, and got off the freeway with the officer following.
In a teary speech at the hospital where officials presented the officer and a colleague with plaques for their work, Byron thanked Preinits for saving her life.
A humble Preinits, who took EMT training in college figuring one day he might have to use it on friends and family, brushed off the praise, saying, "I'm grateful she was OK."
Preinits, who has only been a CHP officer for a year, went beyond the standard sobriety tests to check Byron for signs she was suffering a stroke.
She had slurred speech, one side of her face was droopy and she was drooling, he said. He called an ambulance to take her to the hospital where she stayed for a day and was given a good prognosis.
She's thankful she's alive.
"I was blessed that day," she said. "Words can't express how much I appreciate what he did."