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Local boy accepted to research program

Specialists will undertake sophisticated testing in attempt to find reasons for kindergartener's illness.

March 18, 2011|By Megan O'Neil,

Reece LoCicero, the 5-year-old La Crescenta Elementary School kindergarten student suffering from an undiagnosed illness, has been accepted into an elite research program at the National Institutes of Health, officials confirmed Friday.

The child and his immediate family members will travel to the center’s Undiagnosed Disease Program in Bethesda, Md. where they will undergo a battery of tests, examinations and consultations in an effort to diagnosis his symptoms, said Dr. Cyndi Tifft, director of the pediatric portion of the program.

“The NIH just has an incredible collection of clinicians who specialize in a number of different things,” Tifft said. “If we think this is a genetic condition, we have some pretty outstanding diagnostic resources, including a new technique called ‘whole exome sequencing.’”


The Montrose family expects to make the trip this summer, although they are still waiting to confirm the dates, said Reece’s mother, Natalia LoCicero. All costs are covered by the center.

“When they called me, I almost started crying,” she said. “I was so excited and so happy. It is very hard to get into this place.”

Reece has endured serious health problems since infancy, suffering from severe fevers, internal bleeding and infections. His treatment has included long stays at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, but doctors have not been able to make a concrete diagnosis.

Natalia LoCicero and her husband, Jason, took out thousands of dollars in loans to cover medical costs, and in 2009 were forced to give up their apartment and move into Reece’s grandmother’s home in Montrose.

When their story became public early last year, the family was embraced by the local community, which hosted fundraisers and showered Reece with gifts, including a VIP trip to Dodger Stadium and a pair of helicopter rides with local pilots. Most recently, La Crescenta-based Brownie Troop 15741 donated a portion of its Girl Scout cookie revenue toward Reece’s medical costs.

Natalia LoCicero in early November started the extensive application process for the National Institutes of Health, which included pulling all of Reece’s medical records since birth and securing the endorsement of two doctors. She aggressively followed up, calling the center regularly to check on his status.

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