LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - For nearly 15 hours in 1999, Louisville surgeons attempted something that had never been done in America before. The result was a hand transplant that remains successful to this day.
Dr. Joseph Kutz was one of the local surgeons, who put Louisville on the map with the landmark procedure.
He died Saturday at age 92.
Those who knew Kutz are now cherishing the memories of his greatest achievements, but also his everyday demeanor.
“He was a dynamic individual,” Dr. Margaret Napolitano, a senior partner at the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center, said. “He was larger than life. He was a very tall man, and his personality matched his stature.”
Napolitano first worked with Kutz as a fellow of his hand surgery institute. She described him as a kind, patient maverick, qualities that have impacted the lives of many across the Louisville area and the entire country.
“The passing of Dr. K is a passing of an entire generation of scientific and medical knowledge that has just profoundly changed the world,” Larry Wilder, an Indiana attorney and Kutz’s former patient, said.
Wilder said he vividly remembers the day he met Kutz in May 1975.
“I was a 14-year-old young man, who thought it was wise to pick a lawnmower up while it was running,” Wilder said.
Two of Wilder’s fingers had been sliced off. Kutz was among those putting him back together while listening to a live radio broadcast of the Indianapolis 500.
“I’m a kid laying there, listening to the Indianapolis 500, with these three fellas who are doing this unbelievable microsurgery,” Wilder said. “It was such a new thing at the time. [They] debated who was going faster and who was going to make the quickest pit stops in the 500.”
Wilder said he left with more than 1400 stitches to his leg. His fingers were restored.
“They work, they’ve worked since 1975,” he said. “They were that good at what they did. They were that comfortable and that confident in 1975 doing something that no one in the world was doing on a regular basis.”
Those who worked with Kutz also noted his strong involvement in the community and his love for horse racing as other memories of him they’ll hold on to.
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