(WRIC) — Dr. Kelly Lastrapes always knew she wanted to be a pediatrician. Following a medical scare with her sister very early on in life she knew she had a purpose.
“It’s a dream come true. I live my dream every day. It’s … it’s amazing,” Dr. Lastrapes told 8News during an interview for Remarkable Women.
Dr. Lastrapes’ dream started after a doctor saved her sister’s life when she had meningitis as a child.
“That experience really pulled me into medicine and pediatric medicine,” she said.
Fast forward quite a few years, and after attending VCU’s School of Medicine, she moved to New Orleans to do her residency. That’s where she found her true calling—oncology. Nine years after medical school, she’s back at VCU doing what she loves.
“I’m a hematologist/oncologist so I see patients with blood disorders and cancer. I also have a specialty, a board certification in palliative care. Palliative care is a subspecialty where you’re basically focusing on quality of life for kids. These children typically have life-limiting and life-threatening illnesses,” Dr. Lastrapes explained.
Dr. Lastrapes now works with the inpatient pediatric population at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.
“I’m doing pain management, helping the kids feel better. Maybe it’s an oncology patient who’s having cancer-related pain,” Lastrapes said. “We’re doing pain management, helping them feel better. Supporting patients and families who are long hospitalizations, lots of medical issues.”
Dr. Lastrapes’ work at VCU is only half of what she does.
She also sees patients in their homes through a non-profit called Noah’s Children. She took over as medical director after the very doctor who saved her sister retired.
“Dr. Archuleta played such a huge role in kind of showing me what, how an amazing, compassionate physician helps families who are dealing with such crisis and such hardship,” Lastrapes said.
Noah’s Children is a home-based palliative care and hospice program.
“So that’s wonderful work to be able to go into a family’s home…be invited into their home…which is such a precious and sacred place and basically work with children’s families in their home just to optimize quality and comfort in the home environment,” Lastrapes said.
Dr. Lastrapes’ line of work can be very tough, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I would rather my heart break a thousand times over than to not meet these children and not be able to work with these families,” she said.
Dr. Lastrapes is also on the board of another non-profit, Better2gether RVA, which provides wrap-around services for families of children with chronic, complex medical issues.