Sitting on both sides of the scalpel


After 3 joint-replacement surgeries, anesthesiologist has recaptured a pain-free, active life.

Lisa Vidato, MD, is more familiar with the operating room than most. Afterall, her career as an anesthesiologist has given her a front-row seat to the benefits and challenges that come along with being placed under bright surgical lights.

More specifically, Vidato has spent the last 18 years working alongside the highly regarded team of orthopedic surgeons at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica. But it wasn’t until she was 55, following years of physical decline, that she found herself on the other end of the scalpel. Over the course of the next five years, Vidato, now 63, would undergo three joint-replacement surgeries to repair both knees and her left hip. 

“I’ve led a very active life, and the pain had become unbearable,” Vidato said. “I was very athletic growing up and I just got to a point where I couldn’t even walk.

“It was hard because I wanted to still travel, walk down to the beach, do those kind of things that I should be able to do at 55.”

While Vidato knew that surgery was her only path to reducing her pain and getting back to all the physical hobbies she enjoys, the decision to get her first joint replacement wasn’t initially an easy one. Despite her medical expertise, Vidato found herself dealing with a bout of anxiety — a normal occurrence, especially for someone who has never experienced major surgery. Although she knew she’d be in good hands — later lauding the orthopedic surgeons and staff at Providence Saint John’s for the care she received — it was her patients that inspired her to go through with the procedure.

“Of course, I was looking at outcomes. But I think it was just seeing their courage to come into the hospital and place their trust in someone to cut through a joint and replace it that had the biggest impact,” she said. “I thought, ‘If they can do this, maybe I shouldn’t be afraid.’ That really gave me the little boost of courage to get something done.”

Additionally, Vidato had once witnessed her mother experience severe joint pain. However, unlike Vidato, surgery was not an option.

“My mom had gotten to the stage of her life where she couldn’t do anything about it,” Vidato said. “She was in her 80s and for her it would have been something she couldn’t do. I didn’t want to be 80 and still in that kind of pain.”

World-renowned surgeon Andrew Yun, MD, would take her on as a patient, but Vidato said she would have been comfortable had the surgery been performed by any of the orthopedic surgeons at Providence Saint John’s, who she called “dedicated physicians who truly care about their patients on a deeply personal level.”

“I go to Saint John’s where I feel comfortable and safe: not only are the doctors great, but the nurses and ancillary staff are tremendous,” she said. “I also know the physical therapists are going to be working with me to get me in tip-top shape. It’s like being home and I can’t fathom being at any other place to receive care.”

Three surgeries and nearly ten years later, Vidato is taking 22-mile bike rides on the weekend while training to participate in a relay triathlon. 

“Most of the time, I tell patients, ‘I’ve had several joints replaced, we should have a conversation about it,’” Vidato said. "I think it’s good to share my story and let people know that I'm now able to do things that I could have only dreamt about when I was 50."

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