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4-year-old in a fight for his life

Doctors can't figure out what's wrong Reece LoCicero, and his parents can't afford the bills.

July 21, 2010|By Max Zimbert, max.zimbert@latimes.com
(Tim Berger/News-Press )

Reece LoCicero has been a regular at Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles for most of his life. Some employees there even know his favorite video games.

The 4-year-old is scheduled to be back again today, this time for a surgery that's never been done on someone so young.

He's been frequenting doctors since he was a 10-month-old, and in that time he's been treated for recurring skin sores, internal bleeding, asthma and fevers of up to 106 degrees.

It has perplexed doctors as much as it's drained the Montrose family's ability to make ends meet. With constant medical appointments to keep, Reece's mother lost her office job. His dad's work hours have been cut, and they've been forced to move in with his grandmother.

"He practically lived in a hospital the first years of his life," Reece's 29-year-old mother, Natalia LoCicero, said. "It's been a roller coaster."

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Reece's condition baffles doctors no matter how many biopsies or scans or tests or surgeries or colonoscopies are performed. The most common explanations for Reece's bleeding have all been ruled out, said Byrnie Collins, a gastroenterologist who began treating Reece at Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles in November 2008.

"At this point, we're kind of at a loss," she said. "We have a plan to hopefully come up with a set of answers, and then the plan leads us nowhere."

Reece earned the nickname "Little Slugger" on his Little League team for his relentless effort. He can throw a baseball, kick a soccer ball and school anyone in Nintendo Wii.

"I like reading too," he said.

He's growing nicely and is at a healthy weight, Collins said.

But that's where the normalcy ends.

"We don't know if Reece will live two years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now," LoCicero said. "We have no idea. We don't know what it is."

Reece was pulled from preschool after contracting meningitis. Enrolling in kindergarten is still an open question too.

"He might start kindergarten depending on how everything looks," LoCicero said. "I'm constantly talking with doctors, should I put him in school, shouldn't I put him in school? What if I put him in school and he starts bleeding?

"We're trying to find out what's best for him, and no one can tell us."

At home in his kitchen Tuesday, Reece pulled his shirt up to reveal a quarter-sized, blister-like mark above his right hip, one of many marks dotting his body.

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