Doctors perplexed by student's illness

Four-year-old Reece LoCicero was grappling with a 105-degree fever Sunday night. His sleepless night finally ended after many tears, aspirin and a lukewarm bath.

Doctors had told his parents that hospital trips were for fevers higher than 106.6 degrees. They said they tried to break the spell Sunday night into the morning, fearing their eldest son wouldn't make it to his first day of school this week.

But he made it to his first day of kindergarten Monday at La Crescenta Elementary School, an achievement worth celebrating, his mother, Natalia LoCicero, said.

"I was in my doubts and I cried and cried, and I didn't think Reece was going to start school," she said. "He needs to be around other kids. He needs to be normal."

Reece is battling a series of ailments that continues to perplex doctors, according to interviews and medical records. He's developed new symptoms since July, and while none are contagious, doctors continue to struggle with a diagnosis.

"It's hard because Reecey isn't telling us if it hurts," Natalia LoCicero said. "He's not saying anything. He's just kind of, as the doctor said Monday, he's just sucking up the pain and not letting anybody know what's going on. He's just afraid."

His teacher Jeanne Parsel said Reece had a "wonderful day" on Monday — no tears. But like some of his classmates, growing pains emerged on Day Two.

"It's when they figure out they have to come back," she said. "[They] miss Mommy."

Midway through his second day, Reece said he wanted to go home. He was one of a several homesick students who snacked under the lunch canopy on the school's playground.

He nodded his head when asked if he was adjusting to the new environment. He said he got new jeans for school and a new soccer ball, after its predecessor fell victim to the family dog.

"The dog eats everything up," he said.

His shy side disappeared when class resumed. He straightened up his work space, adjusted his blue "my name is Reece" placard and pushed in his chair. He sat on a green circle on the classroom rug and listened attentively to the "Tiptoe into Kindergarten" story Parsel read aloud.

After some singing "head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes," Reece chose to play with some Legos.

A few minutes into the exercise, he was leaving school. He continued to feel ill, his shy side back, and he had another medical appointment. This go-round was with the pediatrician.

Natalia LoCicero was still waiting to see if Reece would also be going to Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, one of the main centers trying to diagnose the 4-year-old.

"There's no answers, so more bloodwork, more hospitalizations and more procedures and still no answers," she said. "Lots of red flags, but still no answers."

An answer came later Tuesday. Reece had been suffering from a virus he contracted, most likely at a recent hospital visit, the pediatrician said.

"He'll be out of school," his mother said. "Probably, for the next couple days."


Donations can be made to Reece's Medical Fund at 4455 Arden Drive in El Monte, Calif., 91731.

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