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Dr. Louis Riina dies; well-known Long Island plastic surgeon was 56

Riina was the assistant director of the burn center at NUMC in East Meadow for more than 10 years and a partner at the Long Island Plastic Surgical Group.

Dr. Louis Riina speaks at a news conference

Dr. Louis Riina speaks at a news conference about the "fire challenge" online stunt in May 2016 with then-Nassau University Medical Center CEO and President Dr. Victor Politi, left, and then-County Executive Edward Mangano. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Dr. Louis Riina took on perilous cases in his years at Nassau University Medical Center, from a woman mauled by pit bulls to a man infected with deadly flesh-eating bacteria.

Riina was a plastic surgeon in private practice who also served as assistant director of NUMC’s burn center in East Meadow for more than a decade.

The doctor died Saturday of gastric cancer, his brother said. He was 56.

“He was a gifted surgeon,” said his brother, Dr. Howard Riina, 54, himself a neurosurgeon with NYU Langone Medical Center. “He was this incredibly fun, outgoing guy that was really loved by everyone — his patients, their families. He took everyone in.”

Louis Riina was a well-known figure in plastic surgery on Long Island and a partner at the Long Island Plastic Surgical Group. He notably led a team of six surgeons who performed extensive reconstructive surgery on a North Merrick woman after she was attacked by pit bulls in 2011. Riina and his team performed three separate surgeries to repair damaged flesh and shredded muscles and tendons in all four of the woman’s limbs.

“It took all the resources of the medical center to save her,” Riina said then, Newsday reported. “I’m hoping for a real quality recovery.”

Shashi Sharma went on to have an “extra special Thanksgiving” two months later, her son told Newsday.

Riina also was the reconstructive surgeon for U.S. Navy veteran Tim Callahan, who survived a three-week ordeal of repeated surgeries at NUMC in 2012 to remove skin destroyed by a rapidly spreading and potentially fatal flesh-eating bacteria in his arm and shoulder, ultimately saving his limb.

“What they did was amazing, in saving my arm,” Callahan said at the time, according to a Newsday article.

Riina said doctors put him in a hyperbaric chamber so oxygen could kill the toxins.

“I didn’t know if we could get ahead of the bacteria,” Riina said.

In 2010, Riina said a Lynbrook bank window washer from Staten Island was lucky to be alive after getting electrocuted with 33,000 volts.

Riina was born on July 13, 1962, in Brooklyn. In 1964, his family moved from Brooklyn to Bellmore, where he grew up. He attended John F. Kennedy High School there and graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in biology. After leaving college, he was a salesman for medical technology company C.R. Bard.

He received his medical degree from the Sackler School of Medicine in Tel Aviv and completed his clinical work in New York. He had a son with Cindy Riina, whom he married in 2007 and divorced in 2012.

Riina was a resident of Babylon and loved boating on the South Shore, as well as cooking and music, his brother said. He was also a volunteer at Ground Zero for the 9/11 cleanup for a week.

“He was a big fan of community, so he brought everyone into his circle,” Howard Riina said. “People that worked with him, he treated them like family.”

In addition to Howard Riina, of Westchester County, he is survived by his son, Dylan Riina, 12, of Babylon, and mother, Gloria Riina, of Hampton Bays. He was predeceased by another brother, Dr. Joseph Riina, and his father, Joseph A. Riina.

A funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 39 N. Carll Ave. in Babylon. Burial will follow at Pinelawn Memorial Park.

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