Patient Stories

Great Performances: A Master at Work - Knee Replacement Surgery and Recovery

This past February, contemporary artist and sculptor Ellsworth Kelly opened an exhibition of 13 new paintings at the Matthew Marks Gallery in New York City. “Tell Dr. Altchek that I would like for him to go see it because he’s responsible for me being able to paint again; to get up and work,” says Mr. Kelly.

David W. Altchek, MD, performed a minimally invasive knee replacement surgery on Mr. Kelly on June 25, 2008. “I had very bad pain and difficulty with mobility,” recalls Mr. Kelly, who was 85 years old at the time of surgery. “It was getting worse and a friend recommended me to Dr. Altchek.”

Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly, contemporary artist and sculptor

“Mr. Kelly had severe osteoarthritis of his knee,” says Dr. Altchek. “He couldn’t stand or walk comfortably anymore.”

Mr. Kelly spent four days in the Hospital following surgery, continuing with physical therapy for several months. “Of course when I was trying to walk that first week it was hard. It wasn’t exactly painful; it was just difficult. I began painting again at the end of August and early September because I was beginning to really walk again and able to work,” says Mr. Kelly.

paint brushes

“I considered it a very good experience. I remember when I went to see Dr. Altchek for my first appointment after the surgery he had his assistants there. He kept saying, ‘Look how good that looks!’ I think he was really proud of it."

I had heard of HSS before I met Dr. Altchek and the ‘special’ part of it always interested me,” says Mr. Kelly. “In fact, when I moved to New York in the late 1950s, I remember passing it one day. A friend said, ‘Oh, Special Surgery – I wonder what that means?’”

Mr. Kelly now knows from personal experience just what is “special” about Hospital for Special Surgery. “I was very lucky to get to Dr. Altchek,” says Mr. Kelly. “I think he’s a real master.”

This story first appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of Horizon, the HSS news magazine.

Ellsworth Kelly