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"They ... saved my dad's life"

Rob Ford didn’t stop by Sherm’s Food 4 Less Friday night to save a life. He and his 12-year-old son Alekzander were just there to buy groceries.

The same could be said about 82-year-old Clarence Wienecke, whose wife had dropped him off at the store to buy milk. Instead, Wienecke suffered a massive heart attack.

“He didn’t look well,” said Rob Ford, who minutes after trying to wake Wienecke up from a bench by the exit was on the phone with an emergency dispatcher. “Kind of slumped over halfway on the bench, not like he had fallen asleep, but like he had had some sort of episode.”

“I felt like it was better to be told off by an old man for waking him up from his sleep than for there to be a problem,” he said.

There was a problem. Wienecke had no pulse and he wasn’t breathing.

Saturday morning, Clarence Wienecke’s son Clayton learned from his and his wife’s Richmond, Virgina home that doctors at Providence Medford Medical Center found Clarence’s heart blocked 75 percent on one side and 90 percent on the other.

A crowd of store employees and concerned bystanders helped keep Clarence Wienecke alive until first responders arrived, administering CPR and using a defibrillator to try to restart his pulse. Those life-saving measures, Clayton Wienecke believes, are why his father is recovering and being readied for stents and bypass surgery.

“They went into action and saved my dad’s life,” he said. “I just wanted to give them the credit.”

Rob Ford said a Food 4 Less manager named Kevin (he never learned his last name) brought the Automated External Defibrillator and performed CPR while Ford was on the phone with the 911 dispatcher.

“That guy was really on it,” Ford said. “I could see him kinda shaking and trying to stay focused and do what he could until the EMTs got there.”

Food 4 Less employees declined to comment Saturday evening, referring comment to corporate, who were unavailable until Monday.

Kip Gray was the on-duty battalion chief for Medford Fire-Rescue when the call about Wienecke came in Friday night. He said that another noteworthy aspect of the incident was that five people nearby reported as a responder via an emergency-response app called PulsePoint.

The app notifies CPR-certified users when an alert goes out for a nearby cardiac emergency. It also gives location information for the nearest defibrillator.

“A quick response is critical because if in fact somebody did have a heart attack and their heart wasn’t beating, there’s going to be brain damage if they go without oxygen for very long,” Gray said. “Not only can it save a life, but it can preserve their quality of life after the event.”

Rob Ford didn’t have the PulsePoint app — he and his Alekzander were leaving the store with their groceries when they encountered Clarence Wienecke.

Ford said that the incident made him think more about his own mortality, which is why he thinks it interesting that people were surprised that he helped Wienecke when Ford didn’t know him.

“Would somebody else come along and help me like I helped this gentleman?” he said. “I would hope that would be something that would happen.”

Clayton Wienecke is sure of his gratitude.

“These people are my heroes,” he said. “It really dawned on me that if it wasn’t for them my dad may not be in the hospital right now, stabilized.”

This was the second major medical emergency at Sherm’s Food 4 Less within a week. On Dec. 22, 68-year-old Jerrie Saewert crashed her Subaru Outback into the store’s storage area after officials believe she suffered a medical event. Thanks in part to the efforts of an officer and a citizen bystander, Saewert also survived and was treated at Providence Medford Medical Center.

Gray said that apps such as PulsePoint can mean the difference between life and death in cardiac emergencies.

“The more people that have it and are willing to render aid the safer the community’s going to be,” he said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Clayton, left, and Clarence Wienecke at a deer hunting camp in Green Springs, Oregon Sep. 2016. Photo courtesy of Clayton Wienecke.