CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools high school student is being hailed a hero after he helped to save the life of a truck driver after a crash in East Charlotte this month.
It happened near the intersection of Sardis Road and Sardis Road North.
Walker Brietz is an East Mecklenburg High School student and athlete who’s known around campus as being accomplished and humble, and helpful.
He's also a star player on his school's baseball team.
"He's played first base, he's played second base, he's played some of the outfields," Jason Fowler, East Meck's athletic director said. "He's just a kid that he's that team-first type kid, that kid just makes everybody around him better, but he doesn't need the spotlight or the limelight."
It’s why nobody knew what happened to Brietz on his way home after a baseball game this month.
"My mom drove me and a couple of buddies back here to get our cars and go home," Brietz said. "Once I got home, I needed to pack to go to my dad's for the week."
The trip was uneventful at first until he took a route he normally doesn't to his dad's house in Mint Hill.
"I ended up taking Sardis and started coming up on past Charlotte Christian," Brietz said. "Started getting towards Sardis Road North and that's when obviously saw the UPS truck off the side of the road."
Brietz had just pulled up on the crashed truck with the driver still inside. He noticed other cars passing the distressed driver.
"I was like 'I need to do something about this' -- ended up turning around to go back," Brietz said.
Another car also turned around to help, but Brietz noticed something immediately.
"I got out, I could tell obviously, all the signs of a seizure in that moment," Brietz said. "I told [the other driver], 'hey, we just got to keep him in this position that he's in right now. Make sure he doesn't choke on his tongue or saliva.'"
As he kept the driver stable, first responders eventually arrived and took over.
"I told my parents and that was it," Brietz said.
Until that other driver alerted the school.
"He sent an email to our baseball coach, who then forwarded it to me and I just thought it was so wonderful," Fowler said.
Fowler sent it up the chain and Brietz was awarded a Purple Heart Lifesaver Award from the district, one of its highest honors.
"I got surprised with it before a baseball game. So obviously, I was super shocked," Brietz said.
The question everyone wanted to know was: how did the teen recognize the signs of a seizure?
"Five years ago, I was diagnosed with epilepsy, and I have absence seizures," Brietz said.
Absence seizures involve staring spells and are typically brief resulting in a lapse of conciseness. Due to his familiarity with seizures, he immediately knew what was happening.
"You just never know when anything can go wrong. You never know when someone can have a medical emergency," Brietz said.
Brietz says it could have been him, and he encourages everyone to know the signs of a seizure.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, they include but are not limited to:
- Prolonged staring
- Jerking movements of the arms and legs
- Stiffening of the body
- Loss of consciousness
- Breathing problems or stopping breathing
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Falling suddenly for no apparent reason, especially when associated with loss of consciousness
"It's better to help spread awareness about it, as opposed to no one knowing and not being able to help in that situation," Brietz said.
On Wednesday, the teen said he did get an update on the UPS driver -- he’s told he's now recovering from his injuries.