The Neighborhood Advocate

How a Man’s Helper Became His Hero

Photo Credit: David "Quinn" Quinby -- Adam Shafer was on his way to work with Quinn and ended up saving his life.

Farrell, PA — David Quinby, who goes by Quinn, wants the world to know that an employee at a nonprofit known for giving young people second and third chances has done all that and more for him.

“I need you to know that Adam saved my life three weeks ago,” Quinsaid during a routine compliance check-up call from Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. I wouldn’t even be here today if it weren’t for him.

Quinn was referring to Mercer County (PA) YAP Program Coordinator Adam Shafer. YAP is a national nonprofit that provides community-based services to young people who might otherwise be incarcerated or placed in treatment facilities. Mercer County YAP incorporates principles of the agency’s youth program model to deliver community-based services for adults diagnosed with mental illnessIt’s a model that focuses on helping individuals see their strengths, connecting them with tools to achieve their goals, and helping them with basic needs.


Quinn, 53, learned about YAP a few years ago from a home health nurse who saw that he needed assistance with chores and keeping his apartment in order. When chronic back pain, seizures and arthritis made working and driving near impossible, he’d begun struggling to function in other ways, too. Quinn believes he’s always suffered from mental illness but that for most of his life, he was able to bury it.

“For six years, I was an executive chef at an Italian restaurant.  I worked 16-hour days. I would open and close the restaurant. Then I burned out.”

To make ends meet, Quinn turned to construction, where he first injured his back, and a maintenance job, where he slipped and fell and made it worse. 

 “When people asked who are you? What do you do? I’d say, ‘I’m a chef.’ Without that, no longer had an identity.” 

Before he began receiving services from YAP, Quinn would often call his sister, who lives nearby, to help him with errands.

“I hate being in public; I don’t deal well with crowds. I was married at one time, but I divorced and recovered,” he chuckled, adding that he has no children. 

Manser has been Quinn’s best friend for four years — photo by Quinn

As for friends, Quinn’s dog, Manser, had been his only trusted companion. The Brussels Griffon was a gift four years ago from an acquaintance who was getting married and could no longer keep him.

Things began to change last year when YAP assigned Adam to begin working with Quinn

I help him keep things organized at home. I also take him grocery shopping, to the laundromat and things like that. Most of the time, he’s outfront waiting for me when I get there, Adam said.

Soon after Adam started working with him, Quinn began looking forward to their errand trips and the talks along the way. In between visits, he also rediscovered his love for photography.

photo by Quinn
Since working with Adam, Quinn has rediscovered his love for photography

Adam encourages me. I print out my work and he always looks through it,” Quinn said. “He definitely has his favorites.”

photo by Quinn

photo by Quinn

A few weeks ago, Adam was ahead of schedule and showed up at Quinn’s place a few minutes early.

When I got there, he wasn’t outside; I said, ‘Hey, I’m here, take your time. His front door was wide open. I went in and he was on the floor unconscious. He had dried blood around his chin. He was making a gurgled rasping noise. I tried to get him to respondhe blinked and closed his eyes.

Adam quickly dialed 9-1-1 and then called his supervisor at YAP. He said the paramedics were there within minutes. 

I’m trying to keep the dog away. A couple of times; he tried to go near Quinn. That dog, Manser, is his life and vice versa.”

Adam told the paramedics to take him to UPMC Horizon, Quinn’s favorite hospital, and got in his car to meet them there.

“Three and a half hours later, I finally found out what was going on. The doctors told me his condition had gotten worse once he arrived. They said he’d crashed – that if I hadn’t gotten to his house when I did, he wouldn’t have made it. I thought — there’s a reason I arrived early.”

A helicopter life-flighted Quinn to UPMC Passavant, a Pittsburgh hospital that provides specialized care. Meantime, Adam had worked with the YAP team to contact his family.

Quinn learned he’d been battling pneumonia and that his oxygen levels were dangerously low the morning Adam found him unresponsive. His last memory was the night before when he was setting up lights for a planned photo shoot. He thinks his door may have been open the entire night, that perhaps he‘d let Manser out before he fell unconscious. When his brother told him about Adam finding him and getting him emergency careQuinn wasn’t surprised. 

“He’s always been there for meso it was fitting that he was the one who found me and saved my life,” he said.  

As his brother drove him back to Farrell, Quinn gave Adam a call.

“My speech was slurred; I could hardly move my right arm. I said, ‘Dude, you saved my life.’”

He told Adam he learned that he’d flatlined not once, but again in the helicopter.

Since leaving the hospital, Quinn lost 35 pounds, which is fine with him since he was at 245. With all that has happened, he plans to take better care of himself and eat healthier. He’s also going to work on developing his photography business.

More immediately, Quinn is taking time to show his appreciation for what he’s grateful for, like his family, Manser, and an advocate named Adam, who proved to him that his life is worth fighting for.

photo by Quinn

photo by Quinn

“I hope he gets a bonus. In the end, I know deep in my heart, God will reward him, if not for that, for all the other kind things he does.”  

YAP partners with youth justice, child welfare and other social services systems in more than 150 communities in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Learn more at Follow the organization on Twitter @yapinc.


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