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Good Samaritan rewarded with new smile

January 02, 2012

Unemployed carpenter Wayne Sabaj found a fortune, and then fortune found him.

Green luck: Dr. Xhelo Shuaipaj (left) and his brother, Dr. Mazar Shuaipaj (right), pose with Wayne Sabaj in his garden, where he found $150,000, before they treated his teeth. The Shuaipaj brothers donated their services to Mr. Sabaj, who turned the money over to authorities.

Mr. Sabaj, who lives in unincorporated McHenry County in Illinois, stumbled on a sack of cash in his yard—$150,000—and turned it over to authorities. The local media converged on him to hear his thoughts on the money, including what he might have done with that amount of cash.

Lucky for Mr. Sabaj, brothers Xhelo and Mazar Shuaipaj, both general dentists, were moved by his good deed and decided they could grant the wish he expressed on TV: treatment for his teeth.

According to Dr. Xhelo Shuaipaj, "He said, ‘They’ve been causing me pain. I just want to get them fixed. So if I could keep the money that’s what I would do.’ When we heard this, we said, ‘You know what? Why don’t we pay this thing forward? He did a nice deed. Let’s reward a good deed with another good deed.’ "

The brothers, who own Elite Dental Care in the Chicago suburbs of Downers Grove, Ill., and Lemont, Ill., contacted Mr. Sabaj to offer their services free of charge in light of his economic struggles.

"He used to be a carpenter, actually a very fine carpenter," Dr. Xhelo Shuaipaj said. "He used to do some molding and trim work for houses, very expensive houses. He just really fell on some hard times lately where he lost his job, he lost his wife, he has diabetes and he has no money. His house was in foreclosure so he had to move in with his dad."

Mr. Sabaj said the generous offer caught him by surprise. "It’s not normal that people just do something for free," he said. "It’s great. I love it. It was good to see somebody else out there that wasn’t so greedy that everything had to be about money."

The dentists went themselves to pick up Mr. Sabaj at his home, a two-hour drive. "His car is broken," Dr. Xhelo Shuaipaj said. "So he didn’t have any means of transportation. We picked him up and brought him back to the clinic. We did all of our preliminary examinations and impressions and all of that—photographs—and we took him back home."

A few weeks later, Mr. Sabaj returned to their clinic to have his wish fulfilled. "We removed all of his teeth, the uppers and the lowers," Dr. Mazar Shuaipaj said. "They were deeply decayed almost to the gumline."

Removing the teeth took about an hour with both brothers treating Mr. Sabaj. They then outfitted him with dentures. "After it was all in, we held up a mirror and he smiled," Dr. Mazar Shuaipaj said. "Even though he was groggy, he put on a big grin."

When they saw Mr. Sabaj for a post-op exam, the brothers could see just how their care already had affected his life. "When he came in for his second appointment, he was a clean-shaven man," said Dr. Mazar Shuaipaj. "We almost did not recognize him. What the teeth did for him is change his whole appearance. I believe he feels more confident now with the way he looks."

The Shuaipaj brothers’ work with Mr. Sabaj dovetails with their commitment to giving back. They have charitable dentistry folded into their business, participating, for example, in Donated Dental Services, or DDS, for more than a decade.

"This is just something to pay it forward," Dr. Xhelo Shuaipaj said of helping Mr. Sabaj. "This is something just to reward him—to let him know that, ‘You know what, Wayne, you’re not alone in this world. There are other people who think that doing the right thing, doing good, has not gone out of style.’ "

Mr. Sabaj kept the good deeds going, providing a token of appreciation to the Shuaipaj brothers from his own kitchen.

"Wayne is a good cook," Dr. Mazar Shuaipaj said. "On his second visit, he brought us lunch. He brought enough food for us and the whole staff."

A new smile: The dentists pose with the happy patient at their offices in Downers Grove, Ill.