Tattoo artist helps women recover from breast reconstructive surgeryUPDATED 9:49 AM HST Jul 17, 2014Video Transcript
ARTISTIC SKILLS AT DRAGONS, SKULLS, OR EVEN FAIRIES... BUT FOR THE WORK HE IS DOING WITH THEIR BREASTS. "The meaning behind that tattoo is so unique... so powerful ... It changes their lives. I wasn't really prepared for how it affects this ladies." BREAST CANCER SURVIVORS ARE COMPLETING THEIR ROAD TO RECOVERY... BY MAKING THE TRIP TO NEW ORLEANS TO GET A VERY SPECIAL TATTOO. WDSU ANCHOR RANDI ROUSSEAU INTRODUCES US TO THE MAN INKING THESE WOMEN... AND WHY HE CHOSE THE CRESCENT CITY TO HELP THEM COMPLETE THEIR JOURNEY. FROM HIS SEERSUCKER SUIT, TO THE BOW TIE AND ALLIGATOR SHOES... VINNY MYERS, LOOKS RIGHT AT HOME IN NEW ORLEANS. AND HE IS -- NOW. THE MARYLAND NATIVE SPENDS A LOT OF HIS TIME HERE THESE DAYS... BUT IT'S NOT THE FOOD THAT BRINGS HIM BACK TIME AND AGAIN... NOT THE MUSIC ... NOR THE BIG EVENTS THAT LURE SO MANY TO TOWN... VINNY MYERS IS HERE FOR THE WOMEN. EACH OF THEM... A BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR. EACH OF THEM LOOKING TO HIM FOR SOMETHING LOST IN THE FIGHT OF THEIR LIVES. THOUSANDS OF WOMEN -- FROM ACROSS THE WORLD -- ARE CONNECTING WITH VINNY FOR ONE THING... NIPPLES. "When they get to me ... They know they're finishing everything up with this last step. And it's a great position for me to be in and to hear their stories and to be able to close this chapter in their lives. It's just a wonderful place to be." VINNY HAS PERFECTED THE 3-D NIPPLE "TATTOO." FOR MANY WOMEN WHO'VE UNDERGONE MASTECTOMIES ... RECONSTRUCTION ONLY GOES SO FAR. THAT'S WHERE VINNY STEPS IN. AFTER THE SURGERY, HE TRANSFORMS THEIR BREASTS FROM A BLANK CANVAS... TO ONE OF HIS MASTERPIECES.... USING HIS COLOR... SHADING... AND HIGHLIGHTING SKILLS... CREATING THE APPEARANCE OF AN ACTUAL NIPPLE. "It was wonderful! Having the end. Having a perfect product and I'm very pleased with everything." "I really wasn't prepared for how it affects these ladies and to be able to do something so small for them... It's incredible it really is." SOME OF THEM... DECIDE TO EVEN GET A BIT CREATIVE "We've done stars, shamrocks... Flowers." IT'S NOT WHERE THIS LONGTIME TATTOO ARTIST EVER IMAGINED HIS CAREER TAKING HIM. VINNY STUMBLED ON THE SPECIALTY. AFTER NEARLY 20 YEARS CRAFTING ARTISTIC TATTOOS AT HIS SHOP OUTSIDE BALTIMORE, HE CAUGHT THE EYE OF A DOCTOR... WHO WAS STRUGGLING TO GIVE HIS PATIENTS THAT PERFECT FINISHING TOUCH FOLLOWING RECONSTRUCTION. "Once I fixed a couple, I had a chance to work on a clean slate, for the lack of a better word. I tattooed a portrait of a nipple on there and everybody went crazy over it. And couldn't believe someone could tattoo a nipple and make it look like a nipple." THAT WAS THE DILEMMA DOCTOR SCOTT SULLIVAN AND HIS COLLEAGUES AT THE CENTER FOR RESTORATIVE BREAST SURGERY IN NEW ORLEANS FACED AS WELL. THEY SPECIALIZE IN WHAT'S CALLED THE FLAP PROCEDURE... USING A WOMAN'S VIABLE TISSUE INSTEAD OF AN IMPLANT FOR RECONSTRUCTION. WHILE IT'S A MORE NATURAL OPTION... SULLIVAN CONCEDES, THE NIPPLES WERE ANYTHING BUT. Sullivan "We'd make the breast and then we were tattooing it ourselves." Randi: How'd that turn out? Sullivan "it was horrid. You might as well take a bingo stamp and put a stamp on it. It had no character. It had no texture.. It had no layer. It was just bad." BUT THREE YEARS AGO... A PATIENT POINTED HIM IN VINNY'S DIRECTION ... "We checked his website and saw his work, and said it's unparalleled. It's just mind boggling what this guy does. His talent." "When these guys asked me to come down here I saw what Breast Reconstruction is really about, and the results were so outstanding I wanted to align myself with the best." SO TATTOO ARTIST AND THE SURGEON - TEAMED UP - AND NOW, THERE ARE TWO PLACES IN THE WORLD TO GET VINNY'S HANDIWORK... BALTIMORE MARYLAND... AND NEW ORLEANS. "But the meeting may have not happened. As providence would have it... Prior to meeting doctor sullivan and his staff... Vinny was getting overwhelmed with nipple tattooing and wanted to call it quits... get back to his artistic roots." "I came to work on a Monday Morning and said guys... No more nipple tattoos." "nats" "30 minutes later... I got a call from my sister who said she had breast cancer, So I told them to open the phones back up and we'd keep going with this thing." AND THIS THING... HAS TURNED INTO VINNY'S LIFE WORK... HE NOW DEDICATES ALL OF HIS TIME AND TALENTS TO HELPING WOMEN COMPLETE THIS FINAL STAGE IN BREAST CANCER RECOVERY... "You're just closing the chapter for them ... It's a great position to be in. I absolutely love it... I wouldn't trade it for anything." VINNIE IS NOW PASSING ON HIS TRADE TO HIS DAUGHTER. SHE HAS SPENT THE PAST 10 MONTHS WORKING AS AN APPRENTICE AT HIS MARYLAND TATTOO SHOP LEARNING HOW TO CREATE 3-D NIPPLE TATTOOS, WHILE ATTENDING COLLEGE.