Lisa Nagengast was desperately trying to get her ailing military-veteran brother a ride to the hospital when she found help in the most unlikely of places: a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop.
Nagengast had just gotten home to Tampa, Fla., after spending a few days with her brother in Columbus, Neb., to see him through spinal surgery, then get him settled back home. When the coast seemed clear, she boarded her return flight with peace of mind — but when she landed Saturday night, she discovered a distressed voicemail from her brother.
“He said, ‘My left leg is numb, I’m in excruciating pain, and I can’t walk,'” Nagengast told Yahoo Lifestyle. Disembarking from the plane, she called him back, and he explained to his sister the complicated scenario: He couldn’t call 911, because he’s on disability, and if ambulance workers decided his condition is not life-threatening, he might have to pay the medical bills in full. There were only two cab drivers in town and no Uber, and he couldn’t afford to pay for a car anyway. To add insult to injury, he didn’t feel comfortable with his social worker and was hesitant to call her.
Shuttling through the airport about 1,400 miles away, and carrying two pieces of luggage, Nagengast had to figure out what to do. “I said, ‘Give me [the social worker’s] number.’ My intention was maybe she can get emergency authorization for him to call 911. Or we could call a cab, and I could pay for it with PayPal. We have all these great electronic ways to send money now! Or maybe there was another solution I was unaware of,” she said.
So she took down the social worker’s number on an airplane cocktail napkin she still had with her. “I’m not sure if he gave me the wrong number, or I wrote it down wrong, or I dialed it wrong,” Nagengast recalled. “But a young woman answered, and I assumed it was the social worker and started talking.” That’s when things got crazy.
“She was like, ‘Well you can talk to my manager,'” said Nagengast, who still hadn’t realized she had misdialed — and called a Jimmy John’s. “I thought, ‘What did [my brother] say to this poor woman that she doesn’t even want to talk to me?” she recalls with a laugh. That’s when a restaurant employee, Jason Voss, got on the phone.
Not sure who she was talking to, but sure her brother was having a medical emergency, Nagengast started negotiating. “I said, ‘This is my last living relative. How can we make this happen? I will pay whatever needs to be paid,” she says. “And Jason said, ‘Well, we have drivers. I’ll call you right back.'” Nagengast, having just been picked up from the airport by her husband, turned to him and said, “The social worker’s manager is going to call me back. This seems really weird that they’d be in the same office right now.”
Soon, she received a phone call; it was from another Jimmy John’s worker, Zach Hillmer — but of course, she didn’t know that. “He said, ‘Hi, my name is Zach, and I’m going to go take your brother to the hospital. But first I have one question for you: How did you get this number?'” She told him her brother gave it to her to reach his social worker. “He said, ‘Ma’am, you’ve called Jimmy John’s.'”
Laughing hysterically in a phone interview with Yahoo Lifestyle, Nagengast recalled feeling mortified while her husband sat laughing in the car next to her. “I thought, ‘I just have to gracefully exit out of this phone call now.’ This s*** only happens to me!”
Hillmer, who also served in the military, was more than happy to help a fellow veteran. “Till the day I die, if another service member needs help, then I’m gonna do it,” Hillmer told local news station WAFF. “[Zach] told me, ‘Just give me his name and address and make sure he gets in the car with me, and I will make this happen,'” Nagengast said.
Thanks to Voss and Hillmer’s quick response — and a nine-mile drive to the hospital — Nagengast’s brother is stabilized, at home, and doing well. It turns out drainage from the incision, hypersensitive nerves, and pain medication that wasn’t strong enough were to blame for the veteran’s discomfort.
“I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when this whole thing happened to hear [the Jimmy John’s employees] laughing, thinking this is just so weird!,” Nagengast said. “I don’t now if this is what you call ‘Nebraska-friendly,’ but they stepped up and followed the Golden Rule. There was definitely some kind of karma or divine intervention that played a role in that.”
Nagengast is slightly embarrassed that her “two minutes of fame” will be related to calling the wrong number, but she appreciates the Jimmy John’s workers’ incredible act of kindness, and feels “people need to hear this story.”
Yahoo Lifestyle reached out to Voss and Hillmer for comment, and hopes to hear back soon.
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