Farewell to One of My Most Memorable Patients Ever
While reading the Richmond Times Dispatch on Thursday I was shocked to see the obituary of Casey Perkins. Casey died at the age of 28.
Casey was a normal healthy 6 year old and awoke on Christmas morning in 1996 to the smell of smoke. He proceeded downstairs and at the moment he got to the bottom of the steps, the family Christmas tree burst into flames causing a backdraft up the stairs and engulfing little Casey. His screams awoke the other family members and saved their life. Casey sustained serious third degree burns of his body and upper respiratory system. He was treated at Shriner’s Hospital and had many surgeries over the years. Casey’s scars were an extreme disability and prevented this him from doing many things that normal children do.
I purchased a new laser several years ago that was used to treat wounded soldiers from the Gulf war and other burn victims. Although the laser could not erase the scars, it could soften and blend them and offer increased range of motion. I immediately remembered reading about Casey and contacted him. We treated Casey free of charge and he had numerous laser procedures and scar revisions at my office. Dr. Stephan Blanchard also performed his anesthesia free of charge each time. Casey was radiant. He quickly become the hero of our office and he would elevate me and my staff with his glowing persona each time he came to the office. Casey had a very deep voice due to burn damage to his trachea. He would come in and joke with us in that husky voice and I will never forget that. With all his physical disabilities, Casey acted like nothing was wrong. He had a great outlook on life, played the drums and liked all things Asian. It was literally a joy to see his name on our schedule.
Although we did not make extreme change, we did make some improvement on his scars. As a thank you gesture, Casey painted this picture of me which hangs in my office directly in front of my desk. This may have been the best paycheck I have ever received. I did tell him that his art captured my spirit, but I think he undersized my arms! He got a kick out of that.
In thirty plus years and tens of thousands of patients, Casey made perhaps the biggest impressions on me and my staff. He brought us up and made our life brighter. He made us see that most of our problems were trivial and improved all of our lives. I will look at this picture and think about Casey and his loving spirit every day I go to work.
Several years I honored Casey along with some other outstanding patients who were dealt blows in life. These were exceptional patients with various challenges that also improved my live. Although Casey still had laser burns on his face from my treatment, he showed up dressed to the nines!
Life can be so sad and I wish that I had taken the opportunity to do more with Casey. I wish I would have taken him fishing or just hung out. It is things like this that make us all remember that the time to do something for someone is right now because the future is uncertain.
Thank you for making my life better Casey, my staff and I will never, ever forget you.
Joe Niamtu, III DMD
Cosmetic Facial Surgery