In a city known for racing, Paul Warren sometimes must drive through and around Indianapolis with expediency. Lives can depend upon his efficiency.
When the Columbus man picks up packages at places such as Indianapolis International Airport, he’s got to deliver almost immediately — especially when those parcels are destined only minutes later for points such as Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital.
That’s where he has delivered donated hearts, lungs and other organs as a courier for Greenwood’s VeLOX Express the past nine years.
His cellphone will ring sometimes as many as five times while he drives his 2013 Nissan Pathfinder — the one already with 137,000 miles on it — on Interstate 465 toward a transplant procedure and life and death.
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“Where are you right now?” a voice on the other end will ask him. “We’ve got a patient on the (operating) table waiting.”
To be precise, 71-year-old Warren is right where he wants to be, with just enough responsibility and independence in his semiretirement.
He and his wife, Myong, perhaps are best known as owners of the former Daniel’s jewelry store at the former Commons in Columbus and Doggone Good Ice Cream at Columbus’ Eastbrook Plaza Shopping Center.
“I just love driving,” Warren said.
He’s also driven about reliability and dependability, such as through sheets of ice in Buffalo, New York, and 24 inches of snow on Interstate 94 in Fargo, North Dakota.
His last vehicle, a 2007 Chevy Equinox, retired last year with 548,000 miles on it.
His transportation, just like Warren himself, must go the distance. People are waiting.
Last year, a woman with tears in her eyes seemed unsure exactly how to express her gratitude to Warren.
“You were here two years ago,” she said to him. “And my child almost thought you were Santa Claus (with your white hair and fuller beard then). You saved my little girl’s life.”
Warren delivered a replacement feeding tube at 11:30 p.m. one day in December 2012 to the family home in South Bend. Just part of his job.
“I was so humbled,” Warren said. “Very seldom do we get that kind of thanks when we bring things like medicine and equipment.”
He drives with his eyes on the road and his ears often tuned to talk radio or taped Christian messages from late evangelist and teacher Adrian Rogers. He also delivers auto parts all over the country for another courier service.
Sometimes he has completed auto parts deliveries in one city only to be sent to a nearby city an hour later by the medical courier. One assignment that popped up during his granddaughter’s dance recital five years ago took him from Columbus to Fort Wayne to Evansville to Atlanta and back — with nothing but a brief nap followed by coffee along Interstate 75 in Atlanta to fuel him.
“It definitely keeps me busy,” he said. “I’ve left in the middle of a lot of family dinners.”
Besides hearts and lungs, the medical body parts have included tissue for transplants and even bones. The items are packed in a cooler-style box and usually carried in the rear of his vehicle.
“I generally don’t ask what’s in there (in the box),” he said. “I just deliver.”
Few match dedication
VeLOX Express dispatcher Jim Gibson said that few drivers are as dedicated as Warren, willing to leave in the middle of the night for locales such as Dayton, Ohio, or Detroit.
“We’ve definitely saved a few lives,” Gibson said. “It can be very intense at times. There are not very many people like Paul, who goes at the drop of a hat. He likes that kind of stuff.”
Warren scarcely can imagine fishing or golfing or such a life of leisure.
“If you fish, you’ve got to buy a lot of baits and hooks. And if you golf, you’ve got fees and tees and you’ve got to buy balls and all that,” he said.
“The last time I played, I lost six balls in one day. But I found companies that will pay me to do what I love to do. And I love to drive.”
As he spoke about all this recently in a local restaurant, his cellphone rang.
“Hello,” he said. Pause.
The rest surfaced as predictable.
“Jamestown, New York? OK. What time?”
He hung up, paid his bill and dutifully went back to work.
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Who: Paul Warren
Family: Wife, Myong
Role: Courier for a medical service and an auto parts service, driving nearly all over the country. He has delivered hearts, lungs, bones, tissues, feeding tubes and other items.
Formerly: Owner of Daniel’s jewelry and Doggone Good Ice Cream, both in Columbus