Fourteen years later, shooting survivor Tiffany Nemec is smiling again — all thanks to a Cape Coral dentist and a generous Southwest Florida.
The North Fort Myers woman lost about half her teeth in 2008, when her jealous ex-boyfriend tracked her down and shot her in the face with a shotgun. Since then, most of her remaining teeth had slowly broken and fallen out.
Nemec couldn’t afford dental implants. But after years of searching, she found someone willing to do the surgery for almost no cost: Cape Coral dentist Mauricio Martinez.
Martinez and his team at Gulf Coast Smiles finally gave Nemec back her smile on Thursday, Aug. 11.
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Nemec, 34, said she’s still in a lot of pain from the all-day procedure and can’t talk much, but she’s thrilled to be able to smile again after all this time.
“I’m so happy!” she said in a text message. “I’m in so much pain, but I have never been so happy! The pain is a million times worth it!
“Everyone who has seen them has told me how great they look and how amazing I look with them!”
Martinez removed what was left of Nemec’s teeth — mostly broken-off tooth roots left below the gumline — and replaced them with brand-new dental implants.
It’s typically a $45,000-$60,000 procedure, he said in May. But he donated his services, and the companies that make the implants and the surgical guide needed to place those implants donated those, too.
“She’s been trying to get help and nobody’s been either able or willing,” Martinez said in May. “… And if we have the ability to help her and better her life, than why not do that for her?”
All Nemec needed to do was raise $3,000 for the anesthesiologist — a goal she more than met after a May 13 News-Press story about her situation. Southwest Florida donors eventually gave $8,000 to her GoFundMe page. And at least another $10,000 in cash, checks and credit-card donations flooded a separate fund at Gulf Coast Smiles.
Martinez got involved after he and his wife, Julie Martinez, saw a TV news report last year about Nemec’s situation. And they decided right then to help her.
“My wife just turns to me,” he said in May. “And she says, ‘You’ve gotta do something for this lady.’”
Julie Martinez said she was at Gulf Coast Smiles during the surgery, and she was happy to finally see it happening.
“I was just so, so excited!” she said.
Everyone at the dental practice was in a great mood on surgery day, she said. “I think she touched a lot of people’s hearts … They were just excited to help and be part of it. Just to give her something to smile about and know that there are still good people in the world.”
Nemec said she’s grateful to Martinez and everyone involved for making the surgery happen.
“To say I’m grateful would be a gross understatement!” she said in a text. “I love the Martinez family and all the staff at Gulf Coast Smiles! Everyone has been so good to me.”
Connect with this reporter: Charles Runnells is an arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on Facebook (facebook.com/charles.runnells.7), Twitter (@charlesrunnells) and Instagram (@crunnells1).