It was supposed to be a routine morning.
Quinten Shafer went in early to his family-owned auto repair shop to catch up on work.
But as he lay working underneath a car, the jack slipped, the car came slamming down upon his chest and he was soon fighting for his life.
Just Right Auto Repair at 4312 W. Central is owned by Bob Shafer. And all four of his sons – Nick, Quinten, Jessie and Jason – work there with him.
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On the morning of April 13, Quinten, 26, arrived at the shop shortly after 6 a.m., about two hours before the shop typically opens.
“I was checking the starter wire, seeing if it had a loose connection,” Quinten said. “I was underneath the vehicle and heard a bang and the car came down and kind of knocked me a little senseless.”
His right arm was pinned between the car and his chest.
“It sucked. I couldn’t breathe,” he said. He also couldn’t talk.
Every once in a while as he lay underneath the car, he would push up on the car to try and catch his breath.
With his left arm, he reached into his pocket and grabbed his cellphone, texting to his brother:
Over and over, he texted to Nick.
Quinten tried calling.
Minutes then a half-hour went by, 45 minutes and an hour.
Quinten thought about his family and how he wanted to stick around for his daughter, he said.
Five minutes away, Nick Shafer was still in bed.
Nick’s wife, Reva, had already left for work, taking his pickup instead of hers. As he got out of bed and started getting ready for work, he noticed the light on his cellphone was blinking, letting him know he had messages.
They were from Quinten.
“I tried calling his phone number,” Nick said. “I knew something was going on. He was able to answer but I heard groaning. When I heard that, I hurried up and got dressed.”
When Nick ran out of the house, he saw his wife’s pickup. She’d left her pickup because it wouldn’t start, she later told him.
“For me, it fired right up and I got here within five minutes and as soon as I got here and ran in, I could see a car in the middle of the shop,” Nick said.
A jack stand had been kicked over and was on its side. A jack was underneath the car and the jack handle was down. His brother’s legs were sticking out in front of the car.
“My heart is racing and I run around and I pump the jack and there is nothing happening,” Nick said. “I grab the front fender and lift up the front end of the car and am yelling, screaming, ‘Q, you’ve got to help me.’”
It was enough of a lift to give Quinten room to escape.
Nick then called 911 requesting an ambulance.
“A car fell on a guy,” Nick described as he breathed into the phone, choking back emotion. “He’s 26.”
Quinten “looked in bad shape” and “was blue,” Nick said of his youngest brother.
Nick told the dispatcher that his brother had been pinned for an hour under the car.
“They are running red lights and sirens to get to you,” a 911 dispatcher told Nick. “They are getting ready to roll up. I’ve got police rolling up. I’ve got an ambulance rolling up. Sir, at this point, reassure him help is underway. And he is conscious and able to talk with you?”
Across town, Bob Shafer, the dad, raced to get to Via Christi Hospital St. Francis. By now, Nick had told him about the accident.
“My biggest concern was the day before, I had helped identify my next door neighbor of 30 years who had just passed away,” Bob Shafer said. “My thought process was, ‘What next?’ I got the call and showed up at the hospital.”
He asked the emergency medical staff where his son was.
They had no record of Quinten Shafer.
Bob asked if his son had been taken to Via Christi’s St. Joseph hospital.
No record there, either.
Bob’s voice broke when he talked about Quinten.
“He’s my youngest. My baby,” he said.
Sisters from the Congregation of St. Joseph regularly volunteer their time working at Via Christi hospitals.
“About that time, a sister came and approached me and says, ‘Sir, your son is coming to this hospital. And, I’m looking at her and thinking, ‘How did you know that, when the person here has no record?’ I seen the look and she says, ‘Follow me, let me take you to a room a little more comfortable.’”
Sister Marie Veronica Janousek, 80, was named after the woman who, legend has it, wiped the face of Jesus as he was on his way to the cross. She has spent more than six decades helping the injured, wounded, scared and hurting. She has served as a chaplain, nurse, administrator and more.
On that Monday morning, she had been listening to hospital scanner emergency traffic and was in the hospital’s trauma bay, in case a family member needed help.
“His wonderful dad was the first one here,” Janousek said. “He was by himself. In my 61 years in health care, I don’t know how a parent does it when they lose a child or anyone we love that is so dear and precious to our hearts and lives. Imagine how scared you are to hear your son has been trapped under a car and not having much more information. Talk about a guardian angel, I think his son had his guardian angel with him in his ability to text to his brother and signal for help.”
Bob Shafer describes Janousek as an angel.
“The only thing I can think is that she was a godsend,” he said. “We felt like she was the angel representing the Shafer family and we are sure glad she was here. She was our guardian angel that day.”
But Janousek said she was merely doing her job.
“My job is to be with the family and find out as much as I can and support the family and loved ones who have been injured or hurt,” she said.
Quinten Shafer arrived at St. Francis as a Level II trauma case, meaning he was considered seriously injured.
It was incredible, his father said, that when he first saw his youngest son at the hospital the son was sitting up on a gurney, joking with staff.
That’s when Bob Shafer said he knew Quinten would be all right.