Stacy Lilien is riding the wave of least expected, and happily.

Just 7 weeks after a major spinal surgery, Stacy (68) was seen standing next to her mustang at Shadow Hills Equestrian Center, gearing to ride in Tujunga, California.

Stacy experienced severe back and hip pain in early 2023. Inhibited to continue riding her two horses, or walk without crippling pain, which no painkiller was able to alleviate completely, Stacy searched for answers until she found one at Providence, Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “No one thought I was going to come out the other side, with these results, and quickly,” says Stacy on her recent spinal surgery.

Chantal - hunter-jumper trainer
Stacy’s trainer, Chantal, remarks on her amazing recovery.
Stacy’s ability to ride deteriorated over a year as her capacity to walk upright also declined. Her trainer, Chantal, a hunter/jumper trainer at the Shadow Hills Equestrian Center, noticed how Stacy’s enjoyment of riding ceased while her positioning weakened. She couldn’t sit up properly, and her hips and legs were out of alignment. Comparing Stacy’s condition before and after the surgery, Chantal explained, “No one was expecting how quickly she would jump back… I could tell right away there was a difference in her position.” And there was a difference; Stacy’s posture was better than before the surgery.

“My riding has improved because I’m more even, and equal on both sides.”

–Stacy Lilien

Corrective Spinal Surgery & Scoliosis

Minimally invasive spinal surgery
Dr. Deven Khosla and Dr. Daniel Nagasawa perform minimally-invasive surgery at Saint John’s Health Center
On September 11th, 2023, Dr. Deven Khosla and Dr. Daniel Nagasawa, neurosurgeons at Achieve Brain & Spine, Inc., fused Stacy’s L2 through L5 disks together with a state-of-the-art, minimally invasive, robot-assisted surgical device, to which Stacy was the first patient ever to be treated with at Saint John’s Health Center. The surgery corrected the spine and allowed Stacy to return to normal activities.

What was Stacy’s diagnosis?

Stacy had major compression in her vertebrae, and scoliosis (curvature of the spine), which she was completely unaware of. “It is pretty much a common thing that people have a mild curvature of the spine and don’t know it until later and then they get osteoporosis, or degenerative disk disease,” Dr. Khosla mentions. Highlighting Stacy’s pain was irrespective of her recreational activities, though it may have exacerbated her condition.

“I choose Dr. Khosla out of all the other doctors that I looked at because he promised me the best outcomes. He knew I could get better.”

–Stacy Lilien

Stacy’s recovery time was remarkable and likely accelerated due to an internal drive. Dr. Khosla attributes her quick recovery to the dedication she put into physical therapy, her family’s support, “which is super important,” he says, and her psychological outlook. Thanks to Stacy’s natural tenacity, she now jumps both her horses five days a week pain-free.

“In a year from now, you will barely think about the fact that you had the surgery.”

– Dr. Khosla.

On December 11th, 2023, Saint John’s Cancer Institute’s media team filmed Stacy in her element, jumping on her mustang at the Shadow Hills Equestrian Center. “Would you like me to jump again,” she repeated, again… and then again, happy to display her progress.

Watch Stacy, Dr. Khosla, and Chantal, describe a fascinating Journey from Surgery to Recovery.

Shot in September 2023, December 2023, and January 2024, Stacy Lilien shares her story with SJCI.

Dr. Deven Khosla walks with Stacy in the rose garden
Dr. Deven Khosla walks with Stacy in the rose garden at Saint John’s.

Stacy’s Recommendation

Though Stacy’s marvelous disposition was a major contributor to her wellness, so was Dr. Khosla’s care. “I recommend you to everyone,” says Stacy to Dr. Khosla in the Rose Gardens, just outside the Health Center, where most patient and doctor interviews take place. Both Stacy’s husband and brother have had corrective spinal surgeries with Dr. Khosla since.


What is Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery?

ExcelsiusGPS® available at Saint John's
ExcelsiusGPS® for corrective spinal surgery is available at Saint John’s.
Minimally invasive spinal surgery is a technique that reduces the duration of the surgery and patient recovery time, and may contribute to a substantial decrease in discomfort after surgery. Globus Medical Group innovatively developed a robotic navigation platform called ExcelsiusGPS®, which allows spinal surgeons to map out the entire procedure before surgery in 3D. During surgery the 3D map allows the robotic arm to measure precisely the correct angle for the surgeon to place screws efficiently and safely.

Contact Achieve, Brain & Spine Inc.

About the Author

Eleanor Zeri