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Free Care Fund: UPMC Children's Hospital staff helps Lacqueeta stay positive during challenges of sickle cell disease

Free Care Fund: Lacqueeta Oduogo
Free Care Fund: Lacqueeta Oduogo 04:04

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- We're gearing up for the 69th Annual KDKA-TV Free Care Fund Telethon on Thursday, Dec. 8. The Free Care Fund at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh ensures that no child is ever denied medical care.

Lacqueeta Oduogo has a holiday concert coming up at Mt. Lebanon Middle School.

"I've been playing orchestra since third grade, and I love it," said Lacquetta. "I play the violin."

She embraces the challenges of learning this advanced music as it brings her a sense of accomplishment and joy.

Lacqueeta Oduogo is known by everyone at UPMC Children's Hospital for her bright smile and infectious laugh.  (Photo Credit: KDKA)

Lacqueeta knows all about challenges. She was born in Kenya, and at 9 months of age, she was diagnosed with sickle cell disease.  In 2015, her family was granted a green card and they boarded a plane for Pittsburgh.

She started having monthly blood transfusions at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. She got better, but then regressed, needing transfusions even more often.

"So, it was every week, and I'm so thankful, because after a certain period of time, things changed, and at hospital, they call her enigma, mysterious, cause at times they don't understand her," Lacqueeta's mom said.

But this enigma is also an inspiration.

During her months in the hospital, she used the time to practice yoga with her caregivers, and learn a few new melodies to play.  She never complained, though at times, she felt very ill.

"I was so tired, emotionally, physically, mentally," she said. "I was like, I want to go home, jump into bed. But I just took it one day at a time. I've had support people, like my mom, my brother, all my friends. They were like, we may not be going through what you're going through, but we can support you. We can be like, 'Hey, you got this!  I believe in you!'"

"The faith and strength I have, I got it from her cause she's facing it like it's normal," her mom added.

Lacqueeta is known by everyone at UPMC Children's Hospital for her bright smile and infectious laugh. She's also cultivated relationships with doctors and nurses that have made them feel like family, too.

"I know I'm in the best hands because they've been the best people I've ever met," Lacqueeta said. "They've been like my second home."

As Lacqueeta continues to share her gift of music with the world, she's also a beacon of hope for other young people with sickle cell.

"They see me, they see my story, and they say, 'Hey, she's surviving, she's thriving. That can give me the hope and the strength to go through it,'" she said.

"Because of the medical advancement, and the care we receive at UPMC, she's gonna make it," her mom said.

She's also going to make more people laugh and encourage more people to love along the way. 

You can help make sure kids just like Lacqueeta get the care they need by donating to the Free Care Fund during our 69th Annual Telethon on Thursday, Dec. 8, from 4 until 8 p.m., right here on KDKA-TV.

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