Jimmy John’s may have to add freaky friendly to its “freaky fast, freaky fresh” slogan thanks to two of its Columbus employees who recently helped save a local man’s life.
“Somehow they found it in their hearts to help,” said Lisa Nagengast about Columbus Jimmy John’s Night Shift Manager Jason Voss and Delivery Driver Zach Hillmer. “It’s nice to know there are still people out there in this world who live by the saying, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’”
An accidental misdial on Saturday night ended up proving to be a great mistake that resulted in Jimmy John’s delivering a person instead of a sandwich.
Nagengast, of Florida, was in town last week to help her brother, Greg Holeman, a Columbus resident and veteran, who went through a spinal fusion surgery on Oct. 17 at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, though it was risky because he suffers from congestive heart failure.
“The entire surgery was taken care of under the VA and we had homecare workers set up to come to his house to help him with his recovery because my flight was leaving Saturday afternoon. So I took him home, made sure he was settled in and then I left,” she said. “I thought everything was working out great and he was doing really well …”
But when she landed in Tampa, Florida, a little before 7:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, she had a message from her brother, who said he was in pain and that there was blood and pus-type fluid oozing from his incision. She said her brother said he couldn't feel his left leg and was unable to stand up at the time.
"He was in a lot of pain," she said.
Greg, who is unable to drive, was having trouble getting a ride to the hospital. So Nagengast sprang into action standing in the airport baggage claim by getting the number of Greg’s social worker and calling her – so she thought.
“I’m not sure exactly how I got Jimmy John’s, but when I called, I didn’t really understand what the girl who answered the phone had said. I was at the airport and there was a lot of noise,” she said. “I just told her the story and asked ‘what can we do? How can we get him to the hospital?’ I thought she was the social worker.”
She subsequently relayed the story to Voss, who asked her to give him 15 minutes after he got some information about Greg and his location. Voss said he decided to call Hillmer because he thought he might be up for helping.
“I would have done it myself, but I can’t leave the store,” he said of his job, adding he has always been the kind of person who has liked to help people whenever possible. “Zach was on a delivery at the time.”
Hillmer called Nagengast to say he was willing to help, and it was then she said she realized her mistake.
“I apologized profusely. I was really embarrassed,” she recalled. “I just told them, ‘never mind.’ But somehow they found it in their hearts to help.”
Hillmer picked up Greg and had a friendly conversation with him during the drive to Columbus Community Hospital’s ER, where he received treatment. The delivery driver, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, said it was a privilege to help a fellow military man.
“You could hear the distress in her voice. She was mostly worried about her brother and wanted to get him some help, so I am glad we were able to help out,” he said on Tuesday afternoon while in the restaurant. “I felt good about doing it at the time because it was just the right thing to do. It feels good to have helped someone out. I had a fork in the road and it was a good choice that I made.”
Sam Nixon, operating partner of Columbus’ Jimmy John’s, said he was proud of his two employees for their efforts.
“They did a wonderful job, you can't necessarily teach that,” Nixon said. “You’ve got it or you don’t. Those guys did that on their own accord and that’s what was so special about it. They stepped up.”
Nagengast said she wrote and sent a letter to Jimmy John’s corporate office to praise the two employees, calling them heroes.
“They went totally above and beyond,” she said. “You don’t see that anymore. Everybody is fighting over the political atmosphere. Two complete strangers stood up and said they were willing to help, and that means a lot. There are not enough words to share to say how grateful I am to two individuals who went above and beyond their job description at Jimmy John’s.”
Hillmer and Voss reiterated their efforts weren’t about recognition, but rather just helping someone who needed it. They both said neither of them ever had doubt about doing their part.
“She made it hard not to want to help her,” Voss said. “It could have been easy (to say no). But not (easier) than me being able to help somebody, especially when we have the resources.”
As for Nagengast, she said her brother continues to recover and is doing better. He has returned home, she noted.
“I will personally say (Jimmy John's) hasn’t been my first place to go to, but it probably will be from now on,” she said, with a laugh. “It’s so not what I expected. This all happened from a misdial phone call. What these guys did is seriously amazing.”
Jimmy John's is at 825 23rd St. in Columbus.
Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.