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Jimmy John's driver delivers ailing Nebraska veteran to emergency room

Jimmy John's driver delivers ailing Nebraska veteran to emergency room

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Sometimes a wrong number turns out to be exactly the right one.

When Lisa Nagengast flew home to Florida on Saturday, all seemed well with her brother back in Nebraska.

Greg Holeman, 48, was out of the hospital after a risky surgery, and home care had been set up.

But then came the troubling phone call from her brother: The incision from his spinal fusion was oozing blood and pus. His left leg had gone numb. And he couldn’t find a ride to the hospital, Nagengast posted in a Facebook account of what unfolded Saturday night back in Nebraska.

An Army veteran living on disability in Columbus, Nebraska, Holeman believed he couldn’t afford a ride to the hospital, his sister said. He didn’t have the cash on hand for a taxi and didn’t believe his VA insurance would cover an ambulance, she said. (In a statement Wednesday, the Omaha VA said it urges veterans in need of an ambulance to call one.)

So Nagengast called her brother’s social worker.

At least she thought she did.

A young woman answered the phone and listened intently.

“I assumed it was the social worker, Pam,” she explained on Facebook. “I told her who I was, why I was calling, gave her the whole story, and asked what can we do to get him to the hospital.”

What Nagengast didn’t realize was that she’d called the Jimmy John’s restaurant in Columbus.

The young woman who answered the phone, Lupe Rodriguez, passed the receiver to her manager, Jason Voss.

“She was a little panicky,” Voss said of Nagengast. “At that point, I figured I should take a minute to think about it — it was obviously not someone making something up. It was an actual situation going on.”

Voss couldn’t leave the restaurant, but he also didn’t want to put anyone on the spot. So he called Jimmy John’s driver Zach Hillmer to talk it over with him.

“There was so much we didn’t know, what could happen, how it could fall to us,” Voss said.

Hillmer, a veteran himself, called Nagengast to find out where her brother lived.

Nagengast said she became confused. She asked him why another social worker hadn’t given him her brother’s details.

“And he said, ‘Umm, this is Jimmy Johns,’ ” Nagengast posted. “I said, ‘You mean Jimmy John’s like the food place?’ Yeah, I had called Jimmy John’s restaurant. Most places would have probably said something like, ‘Gee, I’m really sorry about your brother, but we can’t help you.’ But (Zach), the delivery driver at Jimmy John’s, picked up my brother and took him to the emergency room to get the medical attention he needed.”

That misdial must have been some sort of “divine intervention,” Nagengast said Wednesday. “It was meant to be.”

Her brother is back home and doing better, she said.

Voss, who was back on his night shift, summed things up.

“There is always time for people, especially people in need,” he said. “I had the resources, I had drivers, we weren’t super busy with deliveries, either. Zach was glad to help someone out.”

Nagengast said the entire episode has been heart-warming.

“In today’s political climate, everybody’s arguing with everybody, and we’re not actively listening to what anybody has to say,” she said. “To have two complete strangers listen to me and then decide to do something to fix it — it was amazing.”

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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Email: nancy.gaarder@owh.com

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