AZ woman with brain tumor says wrong-way crash was 'blessing in disguise'

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Renni Bankowski, 55, was involved in a wrong-way crash. Doctors believe she suffered a seizure caused by a brain tumor she did not know she had. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Renni Bankowski, 55, was involved in a wrong-way crash. Doctors believe she suffered a seizure caused by a brain tumor she did not know she had. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: Family of Renni Bankowski, used with permission) (Source: Family of Renni Bankowski, used with permission)
(Source: Family of Renni Bankowski, used with permission) (Source: Family of Renni Bankowski, used with permission)
PEORIA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A Valley woman who crashed her car after driving the wrong way on Happy Valley Road is calling it a "blessing in disguise."

Renni Bankowski, 55, was by herself on her way home from work on May 22 around 11 p.m. when she blacked out behind the wheel.

The 55-year-old said Peoria police officers told her she drove more than 2 miles into oncoming traffic on Happy Valley Road near 83rd Avenue, hit a car and then crashed into a ditch.

Luckily, nobody was seriously hurt.

"I would say most definitely a miracle that nothing further happened to me ... and nothing serious happened to anyone else," said Bankowski.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Wrong-way crashes in Arizona]

Bankowski wasn't impaired by drugs or alcohol when she crashed, and she did not fall asleep at the wheel.

When she went to the hospital, doctors discovered she had a brain tumor. They said she had a seizure caused by the tumor, which she had not even known existed.

"It’s right behind my eyeball," said Bankowski. "They feel it’s been there for about 10 years and it’s grown to the size of a golf ball."

Now she's getting ready for surgery to remove the tumor. It's scheduled for July 13.

Bankowski has been an employee with Bobby-Q, which used to be Bobby McGee's, for more than 25 years.

Her coworkers think the world of her and describe her as the most selfless person they know.

"She's just a strong individual," said her catering manager Nicole Viers, who has known her for 10 years. "If someone can get through it, she's going to get through it."

The company started a GoFundMe account to help Bankowski pay for medical expenses.


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Maria HechanovaMaria’s last name is pronounced HETCH-UH-NO-VAH. She joined the 3TV/CBS 5 News team in July 2017, but is no stranger to Arizona.

Click to learn more about Maria.

Maria Hechanova

Prior to moving to Phoenix, she spent four years in Tucson reporting for KOLD News 13 and KMSB FOX 11 covering wildfires, VA transportation issues, and Southern Arizona's largest school district.

Before that, she worked for WLNS-TV, the CBS affiliate in Lansing, Michigan where she learned a lot about the auto industry and almost never took off her parka.

Maria also reported in Yuma where she had the incredible opportunity to fly with the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels and cover countless military homecomings.

She got her start at KPHO in 2008 as a college intern and is happy to be back and working with professionals who helped shape her career.

Shortly after college, Maria landed an internship with the TODAY Show in New York City thanks to the help of the Asian American Journalists Association.

She graduated from Northern Arizona University where she was also a member of the women's swimming and diving team.

Maria grew up in the Valley and went to Ironwood High School in Glendale.

When not reporting the news, she’s hunting for the best carne asada tacos or bowl of pho, swimming laps, or hanging out with her USMC veteran husband and rescued Shih Tzu.

In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you also can find Maria at @MariaHechanovaTV on Instagram.

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