The 68th annual KDKA UPMC Children's Hospital Free Care Fund Benefit Show is this Thursday, Dec. 16.

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The 68th annual KDKA UPMC Children’s Hospital Free Care Fund Benefit Show is this Thursday, Dec. 16, and this week we’re featuring patients who’ve benefitted from the care they received at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

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Kendra Acosta, 11, wants to one day be a star.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

She has a vibrant personality, and she’s determined to make her dreams come true.

But Kendra’s story wasn’t always about lights and interviews, rather uncertainty, even before she was born.

“My wife was six months pregnant when we found out that there was something wrong, but we didn’t know exactly what it was,” said Kendra’s father, Roger Acosta.

The Acosta family was living in Puerto Rico at the time, and after Kendra was born, doctors shared the grim news.

“The surgeon came out and said, ‘This is lethal. She only has a few months,’” Robert said.

Kendra was born with a severe disorder that affected her bladder, colon, intestines and liver. Her body was unable to absorb nutrients.

Her parents immediately went into desperation mode. Her father began trying to find a hospital that could help her. That’s when he discovered UPMC Children’s was the only hospital in the U.S. at the time that had a success story with a condition like Kendra’s.

So, he packed his family up and came to Pittsburgh.

“The only thing I knew of Pittsburgh was the Pirates. Not even the Steelers, because I don’t watch football. Only the Pirates, because I knew Roberto Clemente was from Puerto Rico,” Roger said.

For a whole week, at just 6-months-old, Kendra went through a battery of tests. Eventually, doctors told her parents that she needed a new liver, small bowel, colon and stomach.

Kendra was then put on an organ transplant list. That was in 2011.

“And we waited and waited and waited, until February of this year,” said Roger.

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After 10 years, Kendra finally got the transplant she desperately needed.

All that time, she relied on getting nutrients only through an IV. And while she still needs it today, that’s slowly starting to change. But what hasn’t changed, is her love for UPMC Children’s and what it’s brought her and her family.

“Since we came to the hospital so much, I started calling the hospital my house,” Kendra said.

The Acosta family says the care they received went far beyond medicine and tests.

“How the people treat you, not the medical treatment, but how the people treat you is amazing,” he said.

UPMC Children’s is also where Kendra has learned more about herself.

She says she was always shy and quiet around others, but thanks to the Dream Big Studios, which is a radio and TV studio inside the hospital, Kendra has grown to be more open.

“Even though people are looking at you or are talking to you, that just means they want to be with you,” she said.

She and her sister, Kianny, have even created their own YouTube channel and have posted dozens of videos so far.

“We tell them facts and histories,” said Kendra.

And they have fun, which hasn’t always been the case for Kendra.

More than anything, she’s grateful she can now start to live a more normal life.

“I get to see the world,” she said.

Kendra and countless other children are alive today, because of the care they received at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. And the Free Care Fund at UPMC Children’s has helped so many families afford that medical care over the years.

Please help us keep that fund going! Click here to learn how to donate to the Free Care Fund.

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Join us this Thursday, Dec. 16, beginning at 4 p.m. for the 68th annual KDKA Children’s Hospital Free Care Fund Benefit Show.