Lietta, 69, used the back of her hand to brush a strand a hair off her forehead. She takes a single tan seed and presses it firmly into the soil. Once she’s satisfied with the cradles of soil she has created, she straightens herself up slowly. She stands strong, braces herself and starts limping to grab the watering can.

“You need help with that?” asks Lietta’s sister, Avalee, 67.

“Nope, I got it,” Lietta replies, as she hobbles over to the edge of their garden plot.

For three years pain was a part of Lietta’s life. Even though moving was difficult, Lietta wouldn’t let it get in the way of her and her sister’s favorite pastimes: caring for their community garden plot, volunteering, helping with church activities and aqua aerobics.

Lietta’s pain first announced itself at night. She would wake up to turn her mattress in hopes of finding relief. Her calf, foot and groin would cramp and ache. The pain affected her walking gait. She developed a limp and started needing a cane to get around.

Avalee stood by, concerned, knowing that something had to be done for her sister.

Lietta and Avalee attended a Medicine, Munchies & Movie, a free health lecture offered by the MemorialCare 55+ Program at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center. The lecture, presented by Andrew Wassef, M.D., medical director of the MemorialCare Joint Replacement Center at Long Beach Medical Center discussed joint replacement and gave an overview of Mako™ Technology.

The Wagner sisters learned that Long Beach Medical Center offered Mako Robotic-Arm AssistedTotal Knee, Partial Knee and Total Hip procedures. Mako Technology provides a 3-D model of your unique anatomy to assist the surgeon in pre-planning and precise placement of knee and hip implants.

“The surgeon prepares the bone for the implant,” says Dr. Wassef. “The Mako System guides the surgeon within the pre-defined area and helps prevent the surgeon from moving outside the planned boundaries. This helps provide a more accurate placement of the implant.”

After the lecture, Lietta and Avalee talked about her symptoms. Lietta and Avalee were confident that Dr. Wassef could find out what was going on. Lietta worked with her new primary care physician to get a referral to Dr. Wassef’s office.

X-rays revealed the source of Lietta’s pain — osteoarthritis and her left hip was bone on bone. After three years of conservative treatments, she had a solution — joint replacement surgery with Mako.

As she neared her surgery, she and Avalee participated in Long Beach Medical Center’s joint replacement pre-operative (pre-op) class, led by Debi Fenton, RN, Joint Care Coordinator.

“Pre-op class prepares patients — and their coaches — for the whole journey of joint replacement,” says Debi. “The pre-op class gives patients and coaches a chance to ask questions, and sets the expectations for surgery and recovery." The pre-op class also gives patients the option to bring a “coach” with them. Either a relative or friend, a coach helps patients in the hospital and at home after joint replacement surgery.

“Rehab coaches play an important role in the experience,” says Debi. “They provide support for patients as they prepare for surgery, and begin recovery, in the hospital and transition to discharge home.

Lietta went to work with Avalee at home, practicing the recommended exercises, learning how to roll out of bed and getting in and out of a car.

“Pre-op was amazingly beneficial,” says Avalee. “The guidebook sets goals for Lietta. As her coach, I supported her progress and nudged her along when she needed it.”

Lietta underwent hip replacement surgery in July 2017. Through close work with her care team and support from her coach, Avalee, she regained movement. Lietta and Avalee are thankful for the care and support received at the Joint Replacement Center.

Lietta is back to her active lifestyle. After training and hard work, she returned to participating in her local annual 5K walk, successfully completing the route in Oct. 2017.

Today, Lietta and Avalee harvest the vegetables that they’ve tended. Lietta moves around the plot with no limp or pain, and Avalee works the soil nearby with no more worries for her sister.

Image of sisters Lietta and Avalee