Written by Austin Short
26 Apr 2024

Behind the Wheel with Kevin Shaver: Delivering More Than Just Safety

In 2011 Kevin Shaver hung up the phone with a Daniels Health recruiter. With a big grin across his face, he turned to his wife, Tina, and told her he was going to be Daniels’ newest Wisconsin-based driver. She hollered, they hugged, and as he looked her in the eye, he promised “I’m gonna make a difference at this company. You’ll see.”  Kevin’s job as a driver is challenging. Aside from your conventional road safety concerns that come with driving a 33,000-pound truck across three states, Kevin is transporting hazardous and biohazardous waste:  blood soaked bandages, toxic cocktails of chemicals, used syringes. 

Kevin's routine at the hospital involves backing his truck into the loading dock, unloading fresh containers, and greeting the hospital staff. He catches up with old and new friends among the staff, picks up dirty containers, gets the manifest signed, and maybe finds time for a quick bathroom break. Then, he locks up and heads out. The whole process takes about 45 minutes, which is then repeated across customers throughout the day.

To most people, this would be exhausting. But when Kevin completes this ritual, he is more alive than ever. Why? His customers. “Everywhere I go, I ask ‘what can I do to make your day better?’ because seeing my people fulfilled, that’s just the best darn feeling in the world,” said Kevin. 

Kevin is a man of the people. Walking down hospital corridors, he is greeted with hellos, hugs, high-fives and life-long friends.  “Kevin’s biggest strength is that he cares. He takes pride in what he does. He builds relationships with every one of his customers, and not just the weekly ones, but also the customers he sees only once a month,” said Transportation Supervisor Matthew Johnson. These relationships extend beyond work. Kevin hands out his card and tells his customers to call him if they have a problem, work-related or not. 

It’s all about the customer. They know that I am number one for them, and if I can’t solve their problem, I’ll find somebody that will,” said Kevin.  So when Kevin suffered significant cartilage damage and a series of meniscus tears in his left knee, and was unable to see these friendly faces, he was heartbroken. 

Kevin’s Hurdle: The Injury That Paused His Passion 

Kevin prided himself on having never missed a day of work. That changed in early 2023 when Kevin stepped out of his truck, as he had done thousands of times before, with just one key difference: this was not his normal truck; this was a temporary replacement that had a steeper stairway.  

“I missed a step, and with all my body weight, I slammed it with my knee.” said Kevin. 

There was no immediate pain. His wife told him to contact a doctor if it gets worse. 

And it did get worse. Much worse. 

“It was unbelievable burning pain on the inside of my knee, bone-on-bone. It felt like a cigar being pressed against my skin.”  Eventually Kevin knew it was time to face the music. Following surgery in March of 2023, Kevin was to be sidelined for six long months.  “To know that I wasn’t going to be able to take care of my customers, to take care of my route, that made me sick.” 

Road to Recovery: Kevin’s Determined Comeback 

As much as it ate Kevin up, he knew he had no choice: he had to sit still. With a bag of ice perched on his knee, he sat on his recliner, taking in all the MeTV classics: Mike and Molly, King of Queens, and he and his wife’s favorite, Bold and the Beautiful. While resting, Kevin would frequently receive phone calls from his customers, asking where he was, when he’d be back, and wishing him the best.  

Kevin also stayed in constant contact with Matthew Johnson.  

“We regularly chatted about how he's doing, his family life, and new developments at Daniels. Kevin always focused on getting ‘back in the game,’” said Matt. 

And focused he was.  Following the green-light to walk, Kevin had one goal in mind for the next five months: gain mobility back by stretching his scar tissue. 

Much like Rocky Balboa, Kevin got to work, day-in-day-out, on the ultimate dad recovery plan: 

  • Daily squats and stretching exercises in his hot tub 
  • Cutting the grass 
  • Pressure washing the deck 
  • Walking around his back yard picking up after his three wiener dogs 
  • General cleaning to get his trophy backyard ready for summer 


Three weeks before his total time off, Kevin contacted his doctor and Matt Johnson, and led with two words that will be cemented in Daniels history: 

“I’m ready.” 

Back Behind the Wheel: Kevin’s Supported Return 

“If you trip and fall on that knee, you’ll shatter it and be right back where you started,” said Kevin’s doctor. 

Needless to say, Kevin was nervous his first day. But Matt had his back. 

“While I may be Kevin’s supervisor, I also consider him a friend. I would gladly give him whatever is in my power. We had a driver pick him up, we lightened the routes that he was doing and gifted him a brand new truck, which sits lower to the ground, making it easier to get in and out of the truck.” said Matt. 

These accommodations helped propel Kevin forward and he is grateful for Matt being so accommodating. 

“He’s always looked out for me. I didn’t know what to expect from this knee. But through the days, I gained some more confidence. ” 

Smiles as Medicine: How Customers Fueled Kevin’s Recovery 

After just a few weeks back, Kevin was asked to service every location for a hospital system in Illinois and Indiana following a disagreement with their existing vendor. Upon visiting the facilities, Kevin encountered several issues: packaging practices that did not meet safety standards, issues with truck loading, and employees frustrated by months of inadequate service. At each location, Kevin dedicated himself to resolving these issues, ensuring that every aspect of service met the highest standards of safety and reliability.  To make matters worse, with his right knee picking up slack for his injured left knee, Kevin began to struggle with pain in both knees. He went to the doctor and got his diagnoses: another torn meniscus, this time in his right knee. 

“My first thought was, ‘Oh my goodness, what am I gonna do?’” 

He was offered surgery, but said no. 

“I’m gonna do my own thing and see how that works.” 

Kevin created a routine to treating his pain: creating a new, safer pattern of exiting his vehicle, nightly rubbing and icing of both knees, and always wearing his brace. But nothing helped him recover more than the smiling faces of his customers, both old and new. Carol, a customer along his Michigan route, had a special welcome back gift for Kevin. 

“When I first came back from work, she had a big welcome back paper with all kinds of stuff, including a sheet calling me the ‘best darn driver in the world.’ It brought tears to my eyes.” Kevin had experiences similar to this across each of his stops. 

“I was sore from all the hugs I got. To know these people care, knowing that they were happy, made everything better.”  Kevin’s knees both showed great improvement, each day increasing his mobility and agility. But not everything was a warm welcome.  During his initial visit to a cancer center in Michigan, he was not aware of where the pickup station was. Upon going inside to investigate, he was berated by a hospital employee, saying that no one had picked up their waste in two weeks. 

Kevin, seeing that she had been stung in the past by lackluster service, asked her, “What is the problem?” He let her vent. Once she was done, he looked at her and said: “From this day forward, I promise you things are gonna change. You will have what you need and we will become very good friends.” 

Today, Joan and Kevin are in fact good friends, catching up each time they see each other. Though it’s not just Joan, others have come forward, commending Kevin for his exceptional service.  “He does an AMAZING JOB! Its like comparing day and night when compared to the previous company’s driver,” said an employee on Kevin’s route. 

The Best Darn Driver: How Kevin Shapes the Spirit of Daniels Health 

Account Manager Jason Flores thinks that Kevin has been the key to retaining business along his route, saying “I attribute the successful renewal of our existing contracts, along with the extension of our other products and services, to the valuable contributions of Kevin.”  Kevin loves what he does, and his customers love him for it. And he doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon. 

“I’m disappointed that I am 60 years old, because I know my time with Daniels is limited. But 60 is just a number, so as long as I feel good, I’m gonna keep doing what I do.”  Kevin, thank you for all you do each and every day. You’ve truly made a difference at Daniels Health - we just wouldn’t be the same without the “best darn driver in the world.” 




Header Style: 
Austin Short

Austin Short

Communications Coordinator

Austin specializes in crafting engaging narratives for both internal and external communications, leveraging his passion for storytelling to identify and highlight significant achievements and news within Daniels.