Luca Gruszka

Statistics show one out of every 285 kids in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday. On December 12th, 2016, Luca became a statistic.

Historically, Luca suffered from cough variant asthma during the change in seasons. Fall 2016 wasn’t any different. He fell into his typical pattern of getting a cold and the cold settling in his lungs resulting in a cough and difficulty breathing. He visited the pediatrician twice in November to receive steroids and various inhalers. After his second visit, he got better, but on the night of December 11th, he took a turn for the worse and couldn’t catch his breath. His mom called the medical exchange and determined he was in the “red” zone and needed to get to an ER immediately. She took him to Missouri Baptist since it was affiliated with Children’s Hospital. After an x-ray, the doctors thought he had pneumonia and started him on high low oxygen. After calling Children’s Hospital, the doctors decided to send him by ambulance to the ER at Children’s Hospital. After a long night of an MRI, CT, and bloodwork, Luca’s parents were told Luca had lymphoma. A few hours later, Luca was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for further tests. After all of the test results came back, Luca’s diagnosis was changed to T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Luca’s blasts were in the left side of body-lung, kidneys, bones, and testicles.

The location of the mass on his lung and fluid in his lung and around his heart made his first surgery very scary. Luca couldn’t be placed under anesthesia. It was the scariest time for his parents, but the doctors at Siteman walked them through each step of surgery and answered questions with patience and compassion. Kids and families can’t fight cancer alone, and the doctors and nurses take this to heart and continue to support the entire family throughout the journey. For the last two years, the doctors and nurses have taken time to get to know Luca. They ask him about Legos, his robot, baseball, and hockey. Sometimes they even have a joke for him because Luca is known for his sense of humor. When in the hospital, Luca passes time by telling jokes and enjoys teasing the nurses and doctors.

When Luca was in the hospital, he virtually attended school via robot. Seeing the tremendous impact the robot made on Luca socially and emotionally family and friends helped Luca’s parents start the Luca Foundation. The Luca Foundation loans robots to patients fighting cancer so they can virtually attend school. Siteman kids saved Luca’s life, and now Siteman Kids is working with Luca’s family and the Luca Foundation to help other kids with cancer virtually attend school.