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Local plastic surgeon assists community during pandemic by providing emergency services

A local dad has been providing small emergency services like stitches for Frederick County residents out of his plastic surgery practice. Dr. Guy Cappuccino sat down with ABC7’s John Gonzalez to discuss why he made a switch during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was actually my wife’s idea”, he says.

“She said people are so scared to go to the E.R, why don’t you open your office to bring people in for what we call lumps and bumps.”

The Maryland doctor of plastic and reconstructive surgery, Dr. Cappuccino, was forced to shut down his office during the peak of the coronavirus. He quickly scrambled to assist his community.

For months now, he has been providing small emergency services for residents who are fearful of hospitals and to help free up beds in emergency rooms.

“It’s not the typical when you fall off the monkey bars at school. It was more like we built a slide from a piece of plastic off the ottoman down the stairs. I’m not kidding, that’s a true story,” he chuckles.

Social media and word of mouth proved powerful. The loving husband and father of four, who is also the band director at his church, found himself very busy.

But he knows how important these services are for families.

“In light of what we see going on in the world, a lot of us feel powerless between the social issues and the pandemic. The one thing we always have control of is how we raise our family. And so I’m very proud to be a dad who is trying to raise children who are good loving members of the community.”

Dr. Cappuccino’s office is up and running again, but he plans to continue these medical services.

“It’s so efficient, we are going to keep doing it.”

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Frederick County residents who need stitches on a small laceration might feel wary to go to the emergency room during a pandemic – for fear of spreading or contracting the virus, or simply trying to ensure the hospital are not overwhelmed.

Now they can go to Dr. Guy Cappuccino, who has been providing small emergency services for Frederick County residents out of his plastic surgery practice.

Cappuccino’s practice had been mostly quiet in the last several weeks, after Gov. Larry Hogan ordered all elective surgeries to be postponed until further notice. The vast majority of Cappuccino’s procedures are elective, so he suddenly found himself with a lot of time on his hands.

“So it really effectively shut my practice down which… that was bad enough, but I really felt like I wanted to help,” he said.

Cappuccino sent out an email blast and posted on Facebook about his emergency services. While he didn’t have many clients at first, as the weeks went on, he found himself giving stitches to about a person per day.

“People are really happy to have this service. because they’re rightfully scared to have to go to the hospital at this point,” he said. “Especially for something minor.”

Most of the clients had heard about Cappuccino’s services through their neighbors and friends, not through social media.

“If you have a message that is worth sharing, it will be shared,” he said. “It’s very impressive, the power of it.”

Cory Watson, 6, needed stitches after the family dog scratched his cheek. The laceration was pretty deep, and his mother, Lisa Watson knew he would need stitches.

She had seen Dr. Cappuccino on Facebook and called his office to ask about bringing Cory in. Even with Dr. Cappuccino back at work with regular patients, they found time to tend to Cory, who received 13 stitches.

Cappuccino has a setup in his office that allows the patient, many of whom are children, to watch Netflix while he completes the procedure.

“The staff was amazing, Dr. Cappuccino was amazing, and for a 6-year-old to be able to walk into an office, get stitches, smile when he comes out, and be excited about a follow up is pretty unheard of,” Watson said.

Dr. Cappuccino’s office does not take health insurance besides Medicaid, but he has set up a system where he charges what the lowest out of pocket cost would be for an emergency room visit for the patient’s insurance.

“Honestly the care that we received was 100 percent worth everything that we paid out of pocket for,” Watson said. “The staff was amazing, Dr. Cappuccino was amazing.”

Dr. Cappuccino said he will continue to offer service as long as he feels necessary. For him, it’s been a rewarding experience.

“It had kind of reintroduced this element of trauma, and acute plastic surgery care that I hadn’t really done in a few years and I really missed,” he said. “So for me it’s been very fulfilling to be able to help people, and especially people in my own community where I live and work.”

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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a Mount Airy plastic surgeon is providing emergency services to help some of the traffic flow and taking patients into his own hands, literally.

Dr. Guy Cappuccino wanted to find a way to help after his practice, Guy Cappuccino, M.D. Plastic and Reconstuctive Surgey, died down heavily since most of it is elective surgery. Before the pandemic, Cappuccino’s practice focused on cosmetic surgery of the face and body along with non-invasive procedures like Botox.

“After March 24, all elective surgeries and procedures were postponed in Maryland. So, the majority of my practice is elective, so I pretty much had to shut down operations,” said Cappuccino. “I felt pretty useless and I really wanted to be able to help, but as a plastic surgeon, there just isn’t a whole lot that I can do in a pandemic like this.”

It was then that Cappuccino said that he got the idea to offer his services to prevent people from going to the emergency room for things such as cuts, bruises, lacerations or broken bones as a way of preventing exposure to the COVID-19 virus, especially with children and the elderly.

Cappuccino posted on Facebook and sent an email blast to inform the public and he’s gotten a positive response from patients since then.

“It’s been great,” said Cappuccino. “People will often just text me and I’ll say send me a picture, tell me what happened and we can meet them at the office, usually within a half-an-hour, in and out. It’s just me, there’s nobody there. We keep everybody clean and safe and happy and it’s worked out to be a really nice situation. I’ve met a lot of really nice people and hopefully help keep people safe.”

What Cappuccino is doing has mainly been word of mouth.

Cappuccino set up a system where people can text his office number and it will go to his cell phone so he can respond back to them immediately without delay. He can see them fairly quickly since he only lives 10 minutes from the office.

Lyndsay Kuzmak, a dentist and mother of four, has seen Cappuccino’s work first hand. Cappuccino helped her 5-year-old son, Jonathan.

According to Kuzmak, on April 19, her husband made a homemade sliding board with a plastic slide from outside going from a sofa to a chair in their living room. She had just finished saying, “This isn’t going to end well,” when her Jonathan careened off the homemade sliding board and hit his head on the ottoman.

Being in the medical profession, after cleaning it, she saw that it was going to need stitches. She only thought about doing it herself for about two seconds before deciding against it.

“Once it goes past the lips, that’s where my expertise ends,” said Kuzmak.

Even still, she was apprehensive about going to an emergency room in the middle of the pandemic. She remembered someone telling her about Cappuccino and what he was doing, so she gave him a call and met him at his office with Jonathan.

“I’m so grateful to him that he could see [Jonathan] right away. I mean, it was probably 4 or 5 p.m. Sunday evening,” said Kuzmak. “So kudos to him for being a great doctor in general and for seeing someone on a a Sunday evening who isn’t even a patient of record.”

Not only did Cappuccino see Kuzmak’s son on a Sunday evening, he left the birthday party of one of his own four children to help.

“It was my son’s birthday and we took a little break in the middle of the party; we had dinner and cake,” said Cappuccino. “I said, ‘We’ll take a little break and then we’ll come back and open presents later.”

Cappuccino said the whole thing only took about an hour.

According to Kuzmak, Cappuccino was very good with keeping her son calm and let him watch Netflix while he was getting stitched up.

“I do everything I can to put every patient at ease because I know how intimidating and scary it is, because there’s something sharp involved,” said Cappuccino. “Whenever I have young patients, especially, first thing I do is bring them in, I usually sit them down, I let them play with the power chair themselves and go up and down, and let them get a comfortable position. Then, I have a giant 50-inch TV right in front of the chair and I have Netflix and Hulu.”

Kids get to watch whatever their favorite show is and they’re relaxed and distracted, according to Cappuccino.

Jonathan’s wound has healed nicely, according to Kuzmak.

Even though his practice has basically been shut down, he still has been able to do a lot of remote consultations and will have them send photographs ahead of time, all through his HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliance server.

Aside from the remote consultations, Cappuccino’s practice has changed in multiple other ways since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While we usually do things like clean trays and clean exam tables and chairs, now we sort of took that to the next level,” said Cappuccino. “We would sanitize any contact surface, for example, any doorknob, any handle, any light switch, even the hand sanitizer, the counter tops, the keyboard the pens patients would use if they need to write something down.”

Cappuccino doesn’t accept all insurances but in the case that he doesn’t accept someone’s insurance, he finds out what the minimum charge for that procedure is at an emergency room is and charges them that.

“It might be a quarter of what I normally would get paid,” he said, “but I just accept whatever that reduced payment is so that they wouldn’t actually be charged anything more than if they went to the hospital.”

Cappuccino’s office is located at 1304 S. Main Street. The office number is 301-829-4110.