Random Acts of Kindness

The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays.  I got engaged on this day and have had countless parties, but this year was special.  Danny Teodorescu a Romanian immigrant and total stranger that was shot and robbed in Richmond in 2007.  We took him in for four years until he got on his feet and he became family.  Today he took the oath to attain citizenship in the USA.  Below is the article in today’ paper and some photos from the Naturalization ceremony.

Click above for full article PDF

Can you help my friend for free…

are words I frequently hear and I do my best to try and accommodate patients in need.  Unfortunately no doctor can help everybody, but I sincerely do my best to help those that life has shown little kindness.  I was approached by a patient in regards to performing pro bono surgery on a patient who has had a very unfortunate life including being sexually abused by three people from the age of 4 to 39 years old.  When I spoke with this unfortunate girl and found out how low her self esteem was and how happy I could make her by removing several hundred moles, the choice was easy.  Jackie is a beautiful person inside and out and it is my pleasure to assist her with reclaiming her life.

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A touching thank you from a wonderful patient

The above photos show Jackie’s progress with the mole removal.  She literally has hundreds on her head and neck and we are winning!  It was our pleasure to meet this strong and courageous lady.

“The Shot Heard Around the World”

Danny Teodorescu is a 31 year old from Bucharest Romania. Times are tough in his native country since the fall of communism. Living expenses are extremely inflated and jobs are scarce. Danny has been in love with his fiancee Irena for thirteen years after a blind date in high school. In order to provide a better life for them, Danny found a job in Richmond, Virginia driving an ice cream truck. He was able to make almost $8.00 an hour which was high pay considered to the depressed Romanian economy. In addition, Danny could work overtime and weekends to grow his nest egg. He came the first year, made good money and during the winter, went back home to Bucharest to make wedding plans. His plan was to return to the USA in the spring of 2007 and work another year, then go back to Romania to marry Irena and eventually bring her back to Richmond…..forever. It did not bother Danny that he had to drive his truck through some of Richmond’s toughest and most dangerous neighborhoods, he got along with everybody and everyone liked the happy, smiling ice cream man.

On a warm October Sunday afternoon around 4 PM, Danny pulled his truck onto a local playground teeming with playing children and families. Two teenagers approached Danny’s truck, and ordered some ice cream. When Danny bent over to retrieve the treats from the freezer, one of the teens entered the truck and went for his belongings on the dashboard. When Danny pushed the boy out of the truck, the other teen pulled a gun and demanded money. When he saw that Danny was on his cell phone with a wireless earpiece, he shot Danny twice and fled. On the other end of the phone was his fiance Irena, listening in horror to the robbery and shooting. Danny stumbled out of the truck, fell to the ground and passed out. Several brave children used their tee shirts to compress his gushing neck wound and call 911. On the way to the hospital the police took the earpiece and told Irena that Danny was shot, in shock and on the way to the hospital. Danny underwent emergency surgery and since the bullet ripped through his vocal cords, the doctors doubted his ability to speak again. This was along with a fractured scapula and shoulder. Danny was lucky to be alive, but his life would change forever. He was supposed to return to Romania to marry the love of his life in just 10 days, and now he lies in the ICU with a tracheotomy, a feeding tube in his stomach and broken bones, wondering what will happen now.

Dr. Joe Niamtu was on a plane on the way to St. Louis to teach a facelift course when he was catching up on newspapers that he was too busy to read over the past several weeks. When he came across the article about Danny, Dr. Niamtu was taken back with emotion. He was embarrassed that such an energetic and hardworking person was the victim of a senseless crime in Richmond. Also, like Danny, Dr. Niamtu’s grandfather came to the USA in the 1920’s to seek opportunity and begin a new life. Dr. Niamtu called the hospital immediately upon landing and although Danny could not speak, offered his services for any surgical problems that he would have upon discharge and also offered to help in any way Danny needed. When Dr. Niamtu returned to Richmond, he and his wife April immediately went to the hospital to visit Danny and again offered any assistance he might need.

Dr. Niamtu then left for Dubai the next day to speak at another cosmetic surgery conference. While in Dubai, Dr. Niamtu got a text from Danny that he was to be discharged in two days and had no where to go. From Dubai, Dr. Niamtu arranged for his in laws to pick up Danny and take him to the Niamtu’s home to recuperate. When Dr. Niamtu returned from Dubai, he assisted Danny with his wounds and rehabilitation. Dr. Niamtu lined up various medical friends to provide free care and rehab for Danny. Mark Stepanian from Loveland Distributing bought a car for Danny with the assistance of Matt from MW auto sales. Many others from the community sent money to Danny.

Click on the above image to read a PDF of the Richmond Magazine article about Danny

At the time of writing this article, Danny has been living with the Niamtu’s for 7 months. His wounds have healed amazingly and he can speak almost normally. Although he has pain and weakness from his shoulder fracture, Danny has been working construction. His assailants were found, convicted and sentenced. Unfortunately, the Romanian government will not allow Irena to come to the USA which has been a major heartbreak for Danny. He continues his pursuit of the American Dream, has become the newest member of the Niamtu family and continues to pursue all avenues to try to obtain a visa for Irena.

Dr. Niamtu treating Danny’s neck scar with laser surgery.

No Room to Breathe

Calvin Vaughn is a 12 year old boy with cystic fibrosis.  His health is rapidly declining and his doctors do not feel he will live much longer.  Calvin had a wish to see the Statue of Liberty before his health declines further.  Calvin’s mother Susan is a single parent with loads of medical bills and could not afford the trip.  Dr. Niamtu saw the article by Olympia Meola in the Richmond Times Dispatch and offered to pay for airline tickets for Calvin and his mother. Due to the fact that Calvin is on continuous oxygen they found out that he was unable to fly with the oxygen tank.  Due to this, Dr. Niamtu paid for train tickets to New York for Calvin, his mom and sister.  An additional problem arose in that the large metal oxygen tanks would prohibit Calvin from getting around the city as they only last several hours and are heavy and cumbersome.  Dr. Niamtu contacted his friend Ron Mitchell, owner of Richmond Oxygen who unselfishly arranged to have liquid oxygen delivered to Calvin’s hotel room on less than 48 hours notice!  In addition, Ron paid for the oxygen.  Without this kind gesture the trip would have been impossible.

In addition, Dr. Niamtu contacted the National Park Service and was able to arrange a VIP tour for Calvin and his family.  The trip went off without a hitch and provided Calvin with his wish to see the Statue of Liberty.

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Calvin Vaughn and Dr. Niamtu

Calvin is in the hospital again!  This guy is one of the toughest people I ever met.  Despite being quite sick, he always has a smile.

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A thank you from Calvin’s mother

Calvin’s Passing

On Friday, May 23 while most people were planning their Memorial Day Weekend, Calvin took his last breath and expired in his mother’s arms. This brought an end to years of suffering for this truly brave young man.

In the months before Calvin’s death, he met with psychologists and they were very frank with Calvin. They told him he was going to die and that he had to make arrangements for that. Calvin told him mom he wanted to be buried in his lucky blue shirt and that he wanted “Paradise City” by Gunz and Roses playing at his service and also wanted red balloons released at his funeral. These are decisions that no child should ever have to make, but unfortunately, many do.

Calvin’s mother told me that he never complained about his sickness or said “why me?”. Again, this is the bravest kid I ever met in my life.

One thing that did bother Calvin with his passing was “how are people going to remember I was alive”. Calvin wanted to leave something behind so he would not be forgotten. To that end, I am trying to assist the family in making some appropriate memorial or means of keeping the world aware that Calvin was in fact here. I am, at this point, not sure of what is the most appropriate means of doing this is, but I think something that would benefit other sick children would make Calvin happy. I will work with his family and Dr. Bob Archuleta of Noah’s Children. Noah’s Children is a pediatric hospice that is there for terminally ill children and their families. I have been active with this group for a number of years and cannot say enough about the incredible work they perform. When I walked into the funeral home, Dr. Archuleta was right there with Calvin and his mom, just as he has been over the years.

Also many doctors, nurses, therapists and other hospital workers were instrumental in making Calvin’s last days comfortable.

To assist in helping the world remember Calvin Vaughn please send donations to:

Calvin Vaughn Memorial Fund
11319 Polo Place
Midlothian, Virginia 23113

Children’s Medical Services is an awesome organization that takes doctors and therapists to remote locations to care for third world children. On their past trips to Jamaica they were able to procure Botox to treat children with cerebral palsy at an orphanage. For the 2008 trip, they were unable to obtain donated Botox for these unfortunate children. Dr. Niamtu was able to appeal to the president of Allergan and arrange for thousands of dollars of donated Botox to treat these deserving children.