Transplant Patient’s Remarkable Recovery a Team Effort
Jun 11, 2024
Sutter Health
Asian woman in wheelchair is surrounded by her hospital rehabilitation care team

May La Xiong, above with flowers, poses with her Sutter CPMC rehab care team in June 2024.

By Clayton Warren, Vitals contributor

May La Xiong can’t wait to visit the beach again. The Sacramento resident is looking forward to going to Monterey and seeing the Pacific Ocean after she’s discharged from Sutter CPMC’s Regional Rehabilitation Center.

“The ocean is so calming, relaxing and inspiring,” says Xiong. “I love the color variation, the pull and ebb of the tides … the continuous flow. Gazing at the sea and putting my feet in the sand will be a special moment considering everything I have gone through over the last several years.”

During summer 2020, Xiong’s 4-year-old niece noticed her skin had turned yellow in color. A liver that’s not working properly can’t get rid of bilirubin, a substance that produces a yellowing of the eyes and skin called jaundice. This was when Xiong first realized something was wrong and started her journey of finding the right medical team to treat her condition.

Fast forward to April 2023 and a weakened Xiong fell and fractured her leg. She was admitted to a skilled nursing facility for rehabilitation near Sacramento. Unfortunately, Xiong struggled to receive the necessary care that could help her regain the ability to walk again. She was discharged in a wheelchair with limited mobility and needed assistance for self-care.

To make matters worse, Xiong’s liver condition had worsened over time. She was admitted to Sutter Roseville Medical Center in February and diagnosed with acute liver failure.

Woman receives help walking from a healthcare worker in a hospital rehabilitation center

Sutter patient May La Xiong practices taking confident steps up a ramp as she progresses through her care at Sutter CPMC’s Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation Services in San Francisco. Here, programs are designed to help patients regain their skills and independence.

“I didn’t think I was going to survive,” says Xiong. “I was anticipating I would enter hospice care, but the Sutter Health team wasn’t going to let me lose hope. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were about to save my life.”

Xiong was transferred to CPMC’s intensive care unit on the Van Ness Campus in San Francisco so she could undergo a comprehensive liver transplant evaluation. Organ transplants are major surgeries that require time for recovery. A transplant patient may require specialized rehab because of a lengthy and debilitating illness before surgery. For this reason, it was vital for Xiong to receive rehabilitation therapy before she would qualify for the liver transplant.

“The (Van Ness Campus) rehabilitation team played a crucial part in conditioning and preparing May La to be an accepted candidate for a liver transplant,” says Cathy Kennedy, a physical therapist and manager of inpatient therapy and rehabilitation services at Sutter’s CPMC. “The ICU therapists and nurses worked with May La for several weeks until she was considered strong enough to be approved for a transplant.”

Sutter Team Never Stops Advocating for May La

Xiong underwent a life-saving liver transplant at Sutter’s CPMC in April, and she credits the interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, rehabilitation aides, certified nursing assistants and speech therapists for being strong health advocates on her behalf.

“Everyone at CPMC worked so hard to help me heal and develop a plan so that I could regain my ability to walk and live a full life again,” says Xiong. “They saw so much potential in my ability to fully recover and I’m so thankful for all the support I have received.”

An upward shot of a large concrete medical building with lots of windows and the Sutter CPMC building sign out front

Sutter CPMC’s Davies Campus in San Francisco, home to its award-winning Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation Center.

Occupying two floors of the Davies Campus hospital, Sutter CPMC’s regional rehabilitation center is a recognized leader in superior clinical outcomes, specializing in treating adults like Xiong who have complex medical conditions. Each patient receives individually tailored treatments to meet their physical, psychological and cultural needs. In addition, all patients participate in three hours of physical therapy each day.

“Our patients work so hard, and our therapists were dedicated to helping May La restore function and endurance so she could tolerate a life-saving liver transplant surgery,” says Kennedy. “May La’s amazing recovery is a testament to the beautiful partnership and incredible skill and compassion of our rehabilitation professionals. Our team saw so much hope and potential in May La and we’re so proud to help her achieve her goals.”

Xiong is looking forward to transitioning to the next phase in her life and regaining her independence. 

“My experience with Sutter Health has been fantastic and I’m so appreciative of how well they cared for me,” she says. “It’s been a long road to recovery, but I feel stronger every day.”

Recent Articles