Nicos Frangistas is as much at home in the water as he is on land. Today, at 62, he is the CEO of a Greek ship management company. But his passion is water skiing, and it has been since he was young. Nicos has been on the Greek National Water Skiing Team since he was 14-years- old. But in the late 1970’s, a jumping injury led to surgery on his right knee. Back then, the surgery was far different. It was totally ‘open’, and his whole leg was in a cast. “The guys did the best they could,” says Nicos. To their credit the repair held up fairly well, but as the years passed, Nicos started experiencing pain that got worse and worse. He had to stop skiing, and resigned himself to the idea that this important part of his life may be over. “This was a very sad time for me.” Several years later he could barely go up steps or even a slight hill.
At Nicos’ request, a friend in New York made appointments for him with several doctors. The first was with Dr. Steven Haas, Chief of the Knee Service at Hospital for Special Surgery, who told him he didn’t need a total knee replacement, but was a perfect candidate for a partial knee replacement. Nicos was surprised. “I didn’t know it existed, such a thing.” Dr. Haas referred Nicos to his HSS colleague Dr. Andrew Pearle who is a leader in advancing robotic knee surgery. “After chatting with him for 10 or 15 minutes, I said to myself, this is it…for me, this is the place.” Nicos was impressed with the way the hospital completely informs and involves the patient, by telling them what to do for weeks before the surgery, and then after, including e-mails with videos that depict exactly what is going to happen. “In many cases the doctors in other places or countries, they don’t tell you all these details.” Nicos followed all the instructions explicitly, and his recovery was exceptional. “I thought I would have a lot of pain after the operation. And the third day I took only one painkiller. Can you believe that? One. It’s unbelievable.” On a follow-up visit, Dr. Pearle told Nicos he could start to ski again. Nicos was beyond excited. He started training 98 days after the operation. And just over a month later, he competed. “Actually, we’re sitting here at the wonderful Lake Kaiafas…in Greece…next to the Ionian Sea, you know. So, in this place…I competed for the first time after the operation. Everybody was amazed. How can this guy, after 4 months, he can ski in a competition and with this result. And I was thrilled, of course.”
But as much as Nicos loves skiing, his appreciation goes far beyond that. “If Dr. Haas, who referred me to Dr. Pearle…and Dr. Pearle and the entire team were here…I would really tell them that I’m very grateful to them, because they gave me back the quality of life, the quality of the daily life I had lost. Forget about skiing altogether. The quality of life. You are able to walk, not thinking about your knee. Because…before, even walking, I had pain. So I would tell them thank you so much, you changed my life. You brought life back to me. And I’ll be always indebted to you.”