Patient Stories

Restoring Hope for a Future Family.


It’s not cancer!” Tears fell from Maia’s relieved face as she processed the good news. The 31-year-old put her life on hold for 3 years because of her health. Now, amidst all the chaos happening in the world, she finally feels a new chapter of her life beginning.

“It burned.” Maia recounts. “My insides were very sensitive and intimacy was unbearable. I was emotionally and psychologically damaged by my fears of what could happen if I tried to get pregnant.”

Maia has been unemployed for 2 years and her previous jobs only paid minimum wage. Insurance was not a viable option due to price, so she visited a low-cost clinic where a vaginal cyst was discovered. She was told that the surgery would cost between $5,000-$10,000. After paying all of her bills, Maia only had $200 left for the month, half of which she sent to her aging parents in Mexico. 

A little over a year ago, she found a health center that was able to refer her to Lestonnac Free Clinic for the cyst removal. The referral was sent through the Community Referral Network (CRN), a HIPAA-compliant, free electronic referral tool that allows non-profits to send referrals to each other. 

Maia’s procedure was scheduled at Lestonnac prior to the pandemic-related “Stay at Home” order. As non-essential surgeries became indefinitely postponed nationwide, Maia was anxious and depressed at the possibility of her procedure being canceled. To her surprise, Lestonnac called to confirm that her procedure would still take place in early April.

Dr. Fuller, a volunteer gynecologist at Lestonnac for almost a decade, decided to continue providing in-person medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic. He believes it is a critical time to care for vulnerable patients in the community. Dr. Fuller knew the care he could provide would increase the likelihood of patients like Maia making it through these trying times.

On April 7th, Dr. Fuller was able to successfully remove Maia’s cyst. As a precaution he sent a sample out for further testing. The results came back a couple of weeks later as negative for cancer.

“It’s a miracle! I can’t wait to tell my husband. We can try to start a family.” Maia held her face for a moment crying. After a long, reassured sigh she continued “I want to say thank you to Dr. Fuller and everyone at Lestonnac for making me feel that my life matters. Without your help, I and people like me would probably die.”

Maia is able to start the next chapter of her life with hope because of dedicated volunteers like Dr. Fuller and supporters like you.


A Father's Journey to His Son

“I couldn’t play with my son. I was afraid he was going to hurt me.” 

Mario’s voice became brittle as he recalled how the pain from the hernia on his groin prevented him from playing with his seven-year-old son. 

Mario is a hardworking family man from Tustin, California. He works tirelessly at a dry cleaner to support his wife, son, and three daughters. They live in a small, one-bedroom apartment without any luxuries. Two years ago, Mario began having discomfort while walking and laying down on his side to sleep. The pain started as a pressure that would later pinch, and it worsened over time. Prior to the pain, Mario could work up to twelve hours a day, which provided his family with a comfortable income. As the pain progressed, however, he could barely finish an eight-hour shift

Mario was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia, which occurs when a small portion of the bowel bulges out through the inguinal canal, an opening through the muscle of the abdominal wall into the groin. Mario needed a hernia repair surgery. Unfortunately, his job does not offer health insurance and he could not afford private insurance.  

“I was losing hope; I was on a waiting list for almost two years. I looked everywhere. I even asked if I could be put on a payment plan, but the clinics wanted the entire cost of the surgery paid up front.”

Mario looked tirelessly for better quotes, but the lowest price he could find for the surgery was $8,000. Mario became depressed as the reality of being unable to afford the surgery settled in. 

“My wife would tell me don’t lose hope, God will guide you to the right place. My son kept telling me don’t be sad, Dad. Help is on its way.” 

Fortunately, Lestonnac Free Clinic called Mario to offer him the surgery for free on August 28, 2019! 

“I was super happy! I hugged my wife. She cried. We couldn’t believe it. I never thought I would get the surgery for free.” 

Mario is still recovering from his surgery, but he is doing well and is back at work. His recovery is challenging due to the repetitive nature of the machinery he uses at work, however, his desire to finally play with and chase after his son motivates him to carry on. 

“I am confident that I will be able to take my son out to play and not worry about anything.” 

Thank you for helping us give Mario the opportunity to be an active father and continue to provide for his family. It is because of your generosity that we are able to provide solutions for fathers, like Mario. We have many more patients like Mario who need your support. Please keep our patients in your thoughts this holiday season, and, if you are able to contribute a gift today, please do. Your donation can change a life and a family.

Pain-Free, Happy and Blessed! 

“I’ve never asked for anything in my life until this. I was taught that if I wanted or needed anything I had to work for it.”

Victoria is a 58-year-old cashier and nanny from Anaheim, California. Despite living paycheck to paycheck, she is proud to provide for herself and her 82-year-old mother. Victoria explains, “I live a humble life; I don’t spend money that I don’t have. I have no credit cards. No debt. No luxuries.” After paying her rent she has $350 remaining for the month; that’s just enough to cover utilities, food, and gas. She has no savings and she will not be eligible for social security in the future. 

For the past 10 years, Victoria lived with two painful hernias, an umbilical (belly button) hernia and an inguinal (groin) hernia. “I’ve always strained while going to the bathroom. It would hurt to go,” she said. Victoria would often massage the hernia on her stomach in the hope it would provide some kind of relief from the pain. Working as a nanny, Victoria was heartbroken the day that she was no longer able pick up the toddlers. Sometimes she would force herself to pick them up anyways, despite knowing how much it would aggravate her hernias and intensify the pain.

It came to a point where Victoria could no longer ignore the pain. She was​ at a loss for what to do as she knew she couldn’t afford surgery to repair the hernias. Fortunately, she heard about a low-cost clinic called La Amistad. Through the Community Referral Network, a web-based referral tool created by Lestonnac Free Clinic, that allows non-profits to send and receive referrals, La Amistad referred her to the Surgical Wait List.

Within a year, Lestonnac called her to offer her a FREE surgery that would repair both hernias. Victoria was thrilled! 

Victoria underwent the life-changing surgery on October 10, 2019. The very next day, she was able to walk and cook meals for her mother.

“I’m pain-free now. I’m happy. I’m blessed. I want to thank the doctors who want to help by giving their time and skills to people like me. Thank you for taking such good care of me.” 

Victoria was surprised and inspired that complete strangers wanted to help her out of the kindness of their hearts. “Nobody had any reason to help me but they did. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.”

Thanks to volunteer doctors and generous donors like YOU, we were able to free Victoria of unnecessary suffering. YOUR support helps patients like Victoria get back on their feet. If you are interested in becoming a donor, please know that your gift helps us ensure that the low income and uninsured in our community don’t have to forgo medical treatment due to lack of funds or resources. From everyone at Lestonnac Free Clinic, Thank You! 

From Nightmares to a New Opportunity

“I dream of the day when I no longer wake up in pain.”

This thought overshadowed Andres, a 51-year-old, self-employed handyman living in Santa Ana, as he tiredly awoke up and headed out for a grueling walk to the nearest Home Depot on a cold morning.  He stood alongside other self-employed handymen, all anxiously searching for work in a competitive environment. Due to his bad knee, he is unable to perform duties that require heavy lifting, which hinders his ability to obtain many projects. Despite these obstacles, Andres remains hopeful

Since he was a child Andres struggled with knee problemsThe most basic movements are painful for Andres, like walking, standing, and even sitting. Each day he wakes up and goes to sleep in extreme discomfort. Andres has relied heavily on his "healthy" knee to carry him throughout the day. However, the wear and tear of being a handyman started to compromise that knee too. Andres was losing hope of being able to walk in the future. “I never thought my life would be like this. I have nightmares about ending up in a wheel chair... unable to take care of myself.” 

To prevent this nightmare from becoming a reality, Andres spent years searching for ways to alleviate the knee pain. Due to an unstable income, he could not afford private insurance. With no other options, Andres began to seek medical services from non-profit organizations. At one point, he was placed on a 5-year waitlist to receive knee surgery. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, the organizational was unable to provide him with his long-awaited surgery. Feeling hopeless, Andres wondered if his health would ever improve. 

Fortunately, Lestonnac Free Clinic stepped in to help Andres after S.O.S, a local community clinic, referred him. He was immediately scheduled for a consultation. After waiting so long for a solution, he finally received some encouraging news: a diagnosis. One of Lestonnac’s doctors found Andres had congenital osteochondral malacia, which is the abnormal softening of the cartilage beneath the kneecap that was present since birth. It causes extreme pain when engaging in both physical and non-physical activities. Andres was relieved to have a diagnosis and no longer plagued by the mystery behind his knee pain. Lestonnac made sure that Andres didn't wait long for his much needed treatment: he is scheduled for a knee replacement surgery on December 3, 2019. Andres was elated upon receiving the news. “I was very blessed. I wanted to cry... I had knocked on so many doors... When I got the yes for the surgery, I saw the light of hope. I can finally have a good quality of life.”

Andres continues to experience good fortune after the approval for the surgery. He no longer has to go to Home Depot every morning searching for work. Emplowered by a future of better mobility, Andres recently accepted a position as a painter that guarantees him full-time work and a steady paycheck. Andres is grateful for Lestonnac's commitment to improving his health and the health of others like him. “God Bless you all. May God continue to give you all health, wisdom, love, and the desire to continue doing great work.”

Thanks to YOU, our generous donors, volunteers, and supporters, Lestonnac Free Clinic has the financial support and expertise to help patients like Andres. Your generosity gives us the tools to provide life-changing health care services to our diverse communities in Southern California. 

New Beginnings

In October of 2015, a very distressed Veronica arrived at Lestonnac Free Clinic searching for relief from her severe hip pain due to osteoarthritis, in addition to her nagging sciatica. As a 40 year old female, she was much too young to be struggling in order to complete some the most basic tasks like walking to the market and cleaning her house. At a mere 5'3" Veronica weighed in at 293 lbs with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 52. (Generally, a BMI of 30 or greater is considered clinically obese.)

Because of a wonderful partnership with Kaiser Permanente, Veronica was eligible for a Free Total Hip Replacement Surgery, which she so desperately needed. The catch however, was in order to be approved for the surgery, her BMI had to be less than 35. 

At the beginning of 2016, Dr. Brandon Sievers launched the Wellness Clinic, a 6 month intensive and comprehensive weight loss program, and Veronica was one of the first patients to enroll. It was at the Wellness Clinic that her health really took a turn for the better. Veronica was determined; she began to take exercise seriously and also made the necessary changes to improve her diet and lifestyle. After 6 months, Veronica lost an incredible 44 pounds. Although her BMI was not yet under 35, she was still deemed a favorable candidate for the surgery because she was young, but more importantly because she was able to keep the weight off throughout the 5 months following the completion of the Wellness Clinic. 

Veronica's total hip replacement surgery was scheduled on Tuesday, December 5, 2017.

When Veronica arrived at Lestonnac Free Clinic just over a year before, she did not know that that was only the beginning and her life was going to change forever. Two days before the surgery while confirming the appointment details, a very joyful Veronica expressed, "No words can describe how I feel. I am so thankful and fortunate to be able to have this opportunity. All of you at the clinic are always helpful and caring." She goes on to say, "You always treat patients with respect and love. I would like to thank Dr. Sievers for motivating me to lose weight to be able to obtain the surgery." 

 "Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity."  Hippocrates

Inspiring a Future Dentist

As a UCI student volunteer in the dental department, Kimberly knew trouble was brewing in her mouth. “My wisdom teeth were severely impacted, growing horizontally, and my bite was getting more and more misaligned.”

After a consultation with an oral surgeon, Kimberly learned it would cost over $2,500 to have them removed. As a college student she didn’t have access to that kind of money, and wasn’t sure what to do.

“I was shadowing [Lestonnac Free Clinic volunteer dentist] Dr. Shahbandi, who encouraged me to speak with Dr. Poidmore, [a long-time clinic volunteer] who is an excellent oral surgeon. Dr. Poidmore graciously offered to extract all of my problematic wisdom teeth free of charge.”

“I am very thankful that I have met and been able to work with such generous and compassionate doctors. The experience of receiving care from such great doctors inspires me to one day be as great a doctor as Dr. Shahbandi and Dr. PoidmoreTheir work truly changes so many lives.”

Volunteering at Lestonnac Free Clinic has been one of the most rewarding experiences that I have ever had. The staff here is amazing and treat their patients with the highest quality care and respect. Doctors do their best to meet all patient needs.”

Pain and Agony

Antonio, a 51 year old chronic kidney disease patient, arrived at Lestonnac Free Clinic in excruciating pain with an abnormally high blood pressure. Prior to his visit, he had been turned away from two different Emergency Rooms desperately searching for relief from what ended up being a large kidney stone.

Antonio was not eligible for surgery since he only qualified for Emergency Medi-Cal. After realizing the severity of Antonio’s case, including that his kidneys were on the verge of shutting down, Volunteer Nephrologist, Dr. Kevin Pham referred Antonio to St. Joseph’s ER. Antonio went to the ER as recommended and was sent home a third time.

The next day after no word back from the ER, he anxiously called the Clinic asking for help. One of the medical assistants called Dr. Pham on his personal cell phone, as he was not volunteering that day. Dr. Pham immediately contacted St. Joseph’s Emergency room and spoke directly with a physician emphasizing the severity of his case and how urgent it was that the stone be surgically removed as soon as possible. Antonio’s surgery was scheduled that same evening.

Antonio states, “I was so overwhelmed and distraught from having gone to the ER multiple times and being discharged without help. I am so thankful for Lestonnac. I don’t even know how to express my appreciation to them for having intervened for me and helping me obtain the surgery.”

Your support enables the Clinic to provide health care services to the underserved who otherwise would go without help. THANK YOU!