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Two times a Samaritan

In less than a week, Kevin Gray helped save two lives.

On the Saturday before Christmas, the assistant store manager at Sherm’s Food 4 Less had been helping to wrangle grocery carts when a car crashed into the store and an unconscious driver was found behind the wheel — marking the first of two times Gray would find himself a first responder.

Gray, store specialty clerk Kaileb Grisham and shopper Cliff Maris were the Good Samaritans honored by Medford Fire-Rescue Thursday outside Food 4 Less for their roles in administering CPR and using the store’s automated external defibrillator in the Dec. 22 and Dec. 28 incidents, in which each of the two patients survived.

“I’m just glad she’s doing well,” Maris said of Jerrie Saewert, 68, who crashed her Subaru into the side of the grocery store after suffering a heart attack behind the wheel Dec. 22.

Maris, who works for the U.S. Postal Service and wore his uniform at the short ceremony, said he had just finished breakfast at Denny’s with his wife, Jacqueline, on the day of the rescue. They were headed to the store when they heard what sounded like an explosion.

“She blew through the wall,” Maris said Thursday. “It was surreal.”

Grisham said he was pushing carts when he saw the Subaru wreckage — though he didn’t hear anything.

“It’s crazy that I didn’t hear a crash,” Grisham said.

Gray and Grisham were among the very first to the scene of the crash, where they found Saewert slumped behind the wheel and the vehicle still in drive.

Grisham broke a window, crawled in the car, disabled it and opened the driver-side door.

Maris and Gray found Saewert unconscious and not breathing, so they pulled her out and began CPR.

Maris said his experience as a U.S. Air Force medic “just came right back” in the moment.

Gray said the store has annual CPR and AED training, but he wasn’t expecting to use it that day, let alone for a second time less than a week later.

“I just thought I’d sell groceries,” he said.

Gray said he remembers the adrenaline making him shaky, but his training clicked. He didn’t have time to think about it.

On Dec. 28, Gray was in his office when a customer told the front staff a man was “sleeping on the bench really weird” outside the store.

“I realized right away there was no pulse and he wasn’t breathing,” Gray said.

Gray started doing chest compressions, had an employee fetch him a pair of scissors to cut open the man’s shirt and set up the defibrillator before arrival of the rescuers, which included Medford police, Mercy Flights and Medford Fire-Rescue. The fire agency also honored Medford police Cpl. Erinie Whiteman for his role in the rescues.

The next day, Gray said, the man’s family came by the store to tell him the good prognosis and to give him a thank-you card.

“I tried to hold it together,” he said. “I think I did pretty good.”

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

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