Jack Fitzgerald stands near the monument he keeps to his wife's memory in their Naples condo. / Dayna Harpster/news-press.com
Zannos Grekos plans to appeal the ruling, said his mother and close friend of the late Domenica Fitzgerald. Her son could not be reached for comment and his lawyer, Richard Ozelie of Boca Raton, declined to speak to The News-Press.
An appeal would be filed with a district court of appeals. No record as yet could be located.
Any loss of licensure in Florida must be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank, said state Health Department spokeswoman Ashley Carr. Whether he would be suspended from practice in another state is a decision made on that level, she said. No information on practitioners is available to the public.
Time heals, but Jack Fitzgerald bears scars.
He had been married to Domenica, “Mimma,” for 50 years and 10 days when she died.
Three years later, her voice still greets callers to the cell phone they shared. And yes, sometimes he calls it just to hear her speak. “Her cousin keeps telling me to change it,” he said. “But I tell her, ‘If you don’t like it, don’t call me.’” There is no discernible bitterness in his voice. But a visitor to the Naples condo where he lives alone suspects that his bright blue eyes look away — and down — more often now.
April 5 brought a small dose of peace, when the Florida board of medicine revoked the medical license of the doctor who treated her and apparently caused her death. Zannos Grekos of Bonita Springs will no longer see patients in Florida … and perhaps not in other states, as sanctions must be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank, said Florida Department of Health spokeswoman Ashley Carr.
But of course that’s small comfort. Fitzgerald is consoled by photos and memorabilia he has placed on a counter, one that faces a hallway that visitors must pass through. Domenica with the couple’s children, their grandchildren. A framed black-and-white portrait of her as a young woman, which angel statues guard on either side.
“They were soulmates,” said Mark Fitzgerald, 51, who lives with his family in New Jersey. “My dad is strong and Irish and has just plowed forward. I admire the guy totally.”
Fitzgerald sometimes goes to her favorite restaurant with her brother, John, and his wife, Marilyn, who are part-time Naples residents. They take a photo of her and put it on the table at the empty seat. “We get a strawberry shortcake and four spoons,” he said.
“She really liked to go to Handsome Harry’s.”
The couple met in New York on a blind date while both were living in the city. Jack was 23; Domenica, 20. He was fresh out of the Army, back from where he had been stationed near Venice, Italy, and was then working in his stepfather’s printing business and on the bachelor’s degree he would soon finish; she worked for McCall’s magazine as a designer.
They married, had children and grandchildren, survived sickness — his heart surgery, her breast cancer — and health.
After chemotherapy, Domenica had numbness and pain and difficulty walking. A grandson was about to graduate from high school in New Jersey, and she didn’t want to watch the ceremony from a wheelchair. She wanted to walk.
The history of her association with Grekos and the circumstances under which she sought treatment for post-chemo neuropathy became increasingly muddy during proceedings in the malpractice suit the Florida department of health brought against the doctor. But neither side of the tragedy disputes that Grekos had seemed to have success with stem-cell therapies for other patients, particularly those with heart or lung problems, and Domenica’s close friendship with Grekos’ mother, Effie bolstered her trust.
When they first met, Fitzgerald said, Grekos usually wore “dungarees and a ponytail.” The look fit the maverick image the doctor seemed to cultivate. There was national attention. Men’s Health and CNN sent reporters to write about his stem-cell treatments. They visited the hospital in the Dominican Republic where the second half of the procedure he would begin in Bonita Springs was legal.
Fitzgerald attended the medical board meeting on the day it suspended Grekos’ license. He had planned to spend that night in Deerfield Beach. But as soon as the board made its ruling, he made phone calls.
“When he got the news he was re-energized,” said Mark Fitzgerald. “He called my aunt and uncle and they said ‘Come on home, Jack, we’ll take you to dinner.’”