Liyah-Ann Sabalboro

Wall of Hope: Stories of Courage & Inspiration


Fifteen-year-old Liyah-Ann Sabalboro has had to overcome a greater obstacle than any teenager should ever have to encounter. One day, she was suddenly unable to stand up and experienced temporary paralysis. She was taken to Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children and was diagnosed with a giant cell tumor on her lumbosacral spine. She underwent surgery to remove the rare and fast-growing non-cancerous tumor.

Following the surgery, Liyah-Ann continued to experience paralysis, and had to go through intensive physical therapy to re-learn how to move her legs to get out of bed and to balance while sitting. She also had to strengthen her upper body to help with learning to stand with a walker.

Over the course of four months, she learned how to walk with a walker, then crutches, and then with braces at her feet. Today, she is walking on her own with no assistance. 

“It has been a privilege to be a part of Liyah’s journey toward recovery and independence,” says Dr. Kimberly Aina, her physical therapist at Kapiolani. “Even though there were days filled with tears and signs of frustration, there was never a negative word spoken. She has always been positive and motivated.”

Liyah also got creative with her rehabilitation using dance moves she saw on TikTok as a version of her own therapy. Her journey and recovery have since served as inspiration to other children hospitalized at Kapiolani with acquired spinal cord injuries.

The one piece of advice that Liyah hopes people will take away from her story is “to always stay positive. There are going to be some hard days, but you have to trust that everything will be fine. One day you will look back and see how far you’ve come along.”

Published on: October 17, 2021