It was dark outside the ambulance at one o’clock in the morning. Just three days prior, Lucca Lorenzi, a junior at Golden Valley High School, had come home from being a camp counselor for the Merced County 4H summer program when he felt something in his nose and thought he was coming down with the flu. However, the situation quickly deteriorated.
On Saturday, Lorenzi went to urgent care and was diagnosed with a sinus infection and given some antibiotics. By Monday, the pills were not working and the pain had significantly increased to the point where he lost his appetite and struggled to sleep. On Monday morning, his parents took him to Valley Children’s Hospital. By that time, his condition had become so bad that his nose began to bleed while getting the CT scan and MRI. A short time later, Lorenzi was diagnosed with Juvenile Nasopharyngeal Angiofibroma (JNA), an extremely rare tumor that is not cancerous but can grow extremely fast and possibly lead to death.
As Lorenzi lay in the ambulance taking him from Valley Children’s Hospital through the night to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford where doctors had the expertise to handle his rare condition, he began to reflect on the situation.
“I had never been told, up until that point, that I had the real possibility of my life being threatened. That was something that made me sick to my stomach of having to even process,” Lorenzi said.
Once he arrived at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, the situation came into focus. Doctors told him the tumor was about the size of a tennis ball and speculated it was likely growing up to a year before the incident. Of course, it wasn’t the same shape as a tennis ball.
Lorenzi explained, “The main part was in the space between [the back of] my cheek and my brain. From there, it had grown into my eye. It had grown into my entire left sinus and then into my nose, my left nostril, to the point where you could actually see it and touch it. It has also been growing into my throat and growing up into my brain. That’s where they get very alarmed because it can cause meningitis and eventually cause death.”
Doctors removed the tumor in two back-to-back procedures a few days later.
On the long drive back home to the Valley, Lorenzi looked out the car window and watched the scenery go by. Through that hypnotic gaze, waves of surreal euphoria swept over him.
“I have this again. I have this back. I could have almost lost this.”
Lorenzi’s gratitude for life soon turned to an appreciation for the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. During the drive, he and his parents discussed how they could thank the hospital.
“A thank you card didn’t seem appropriate,” noted Lorenzi.
During his time at the hospital, he had visited the creative recovery area. While he was too weak to create art, the moment did stick with him, and he thought of a way to encourage the healing power of creativity.
When he returned home, he started a service project called “Pack it up for Packard.” The project aims to collect art supplies to donate to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Lorenzi is still running the program that has recently expanded into collecting English and Spanish books, which additionally benefits his former elementary school in Merced.
Through “Pack it up for Packard,” Lorenzi was able to establish a relationship with the Lucile Packard Foundation. He was invited to shadow the Associate Director of Communication, Megan Alpers-Raschefsky. In that experience, he learned about the fields of public relations and graphic design and realized he could pursue both at Fresno State. He also decided on his long-term goal: to work in public relations for a children’s hospital.
“If I didn’t have this experience, I wouldn’t have these aspirations, to begin with. I wouldn’t know about public relations,” Lorenzi said.
A President’s Honors Scholar in the Smittcamp Family Honors College, Lorenzi is now majoring in Media, Communications and Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations. He is also minoring in Graphic Design. With a background in debate and speech during elementary and high school, a love of art, graphic design and writing, Lorenzi’s passions seem to fill every crevice of the public relations world. Through his public relations classes and service learning, he has found greater inspiration for his passions.
In the “Advanced Writing to Influence” (MCJ 158S) service learning course in the public relations program, Lorenzi was able to work with the Central California Children’s Institute. His class group was tasked with reinvigorating the organization from a public relations standpoint. Lorenzi said he saw a television news story about “Directing Change,” an annual film and social media contest hosted by “Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement” funded through the Mental Health Services Act. It was a perfect fit for the institute. Lorenzi said participation in the contest allowed the Central California Children’s Institute to create a name for themselves on a statewide level and make valuable contacts.
In the spring 2021 semester, Lorenzi had the opportunity to be enrolled in the brand new “Water and Strategic Media” (MCJ180) class. While he admitted he wasn’t sure about taking the course initially, he has found the subject fascinating.
“I’ve learned that there are so many issues that are tangled up in one another. It’s a complex web of issues that conflict with one another and in the center of it all is water,” Lorenzi explained.
The first half of the course focuses on indigenous peoples and their relationship to water and fishing rights. The second half examines agriculture. Through the class, Lorenzi has come to understand how vital water issues are to everyone, especially in California.
In addition to his coursework, Lorenzi works for the Fresno State Transportation Institute as a multimedia student assistant. His job is to update content on the university website and write articles and news releases. After the COVID-19 lockdown, the Transportation Institute studied how viruses are transmitted on a bus. Lorenzi used his graphic design skills to boil down the complex scientific results into an infographic. He was also part of the team that set up the press event and demonstration. The study was widely reported in local media.
“Just to see the activity and the buzz of what setting this up for the press looks like, it was just so interesting and beneficial in gaining experience,” he said.
During his time at Fresno State, Lorenzi has received the President’s Honors College Scholarship, the Fresno Advertising Foundation scholarship, the MCJ Dean’s Council Scholarship, the Cyril Smith Trust Scholarship, the Bloss Scholarship and the Paul DeRuosi Memorial Scholarship. He was also named a Lucile Packard Patient Hero this year and a Lucile Packard Champion for Change in 2019.
When the pandemic first struck, Lorenzi and his friends sat on the steps of the Peters Business Building overlooking the campus. As night fell, they reflected on their time so far at Fresno State as they prepared to part ways amid the lockdown the next day.
Now, as a new day dawns, Lorenzi is wrapping up his second year at Fresno State. He is looking forward to returning to campus this fall and continuing to make a difference with his second chance at life.