Portrait of a Grateful Patient
As a child, Lillian’s father remarked that her gait looked funny. But she never mentioned the pain to her family.
“When I was in elementary school, I’d try to keep up with the rest of the kids - but my legs and back would start burning,” she says. “I’d be standing there waiting for it to stop, while the other kids were leaving. Back then folks never really went to the doctor unless it was life-threatening. I just thought that was the way it was and kept quiet.”
As she grew older and pursued careers in banking in California and child- care administration in Texas, Lillian continued quietly dealing with the pain in her legs. She just thought that’s what life was about.
“Boy, did the right side give me pain, Lord have mercy!” she says. “I did everything in pain.” Lillian eventually had surgery on her left hip to help relieve the effects of bone deterioration. She’d previously undergone a separate operation to fuse discs in her spine after a back injury she sustained while lifting a child at her job as an administrator of a child care center. Recovery from the surgeries took years. While she continued on with life, Lillian’s hip pain still followed her.
Then a twist came. Lillian received a call from her former husband, who said it was time for Lillian to move back to California - and told her they had great doctors at UC Davis. She decided he was right.
Settling in Fairfield, Lillian decided it was time to do something. Due to the previous surgeries, and the ever-present pain, her gait had changed. By favoring her left hip, the constant wear and tear had worn down her right hip, too.
Lillian contacted the UC Davis Department of Orthopaedics and was seen by Dr. Paul Di Cesare, a nationally renowned expert on hip and knee replacement surgery and the university’s Michael W. Chapman Chair of Orthopaedic Surgery. Dr. Di Cesare recommended a replacement of her right hip.
The experience was much different than what Lillian expected - when she woke from the operation,
she had to ask the nurse if the doctors had actually performed the surgery, “There was no pain!” she says. “Yes, there was discomfort, but I was used to serious pain.”
Healing swiftly, Lillian is dedicated to her recovery and does her exercise diligently. “I use the exercise equipment, I keep in shape, I eat healthy and I haven’t had any problems,” she says. “The pain was like living in darkness and now I have light because I don’t have pain.”
When asked if this is why she gave a gift to the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, she said: “I love the advancement medical technology has made. I greatly admire surgeons. You have the choice to be anything you want to be, but it takes certain people to become surgeons.
Because when they can rebuild people or do surgery that can help people, I just think that is the most wonderful thing in the world. And Dr. Di Cesare is good. You see, I do not know surgery without pain. For me to wake up and have almost no pain was wonderful.” And now, nearly 40 years later, Lillian is remarrying her sweetheart who brought her back to California.