MIAMI – Rafael Garcia, a popular City of Miami firefighter and paramedic also known as "Ralf" and "Robertico," died Monday. As an organ donor, he was kept on life support until Tuesday. He was 28.
After feeling sick March 15, doctors at South Miami hospital found a mass that was in the cerebellum area of the brain, which controls coordination. His wife, Maeghan Garcia, is pregnant with a boy they had planned to Mason James, but will now be named Mason Rafael.
He was transferred from South Miami to University of Miami Hospital on March 17. And on March 19, she told family and friends that he was having a diagnostic "procedure done." His firefighter friends were alarmed March 22, when she said he "was rushed into emergency surgery."
After doctors removed the mass and a magnetic resonance imaging of the body was done, they learned he was brain dead, a family friend said. On Facebook, on March 23rd, she said she wanted the love of her life to rest "easy, in peace and without any pain."
She described him as strong, "beautiful and selfless." She also said on Facebook before he died, "If you know him, you know he would give the shirt off his back to anyone."
SOLIDARITY WITH FIREFIGHTERS
When his condition worsened, she posted, "I love this man more than he could ever imagine."
The soon-to-be mom shared a promise on Facebook Monday afternoon: "I will make sure that he [the baby] knows who his daddy was and what an amazing and loved man he was."
Garcia was beloved at the City of Miami Fire Department. There was sadness at fire station 1, 144 NE 5th St., in downtown Miami and other fire stations Monday afternoon. He was working toward becoming a Lieutenant in the department.
"One of the best people I've ever known," Miami Fire Lt. Martin Agresti said.
There were messages of support from Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue, Broward Sheriff's Office Fire Rescue, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and even from Spain on social media.
"Stunned, heartbroken, can't stop crying," a Miami firefighter said on a fire rescue station's Facebook page. "Thank you for your efforts but sometimes it's not enough. We lost Ralf this morning."
Tuesday night, Garcia was transported from the hospital to the funeral home. During their route, they drove his body past his first station, Station 5, and then past his most recent assignment, the Downtown Station, where the fire boat he was usually on was located, officials said.
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CLARIFICATION: An original version of this story reported he had brain cancer, and although there were suspicions, the mass had not yet been biopsied when doctors pronounced him brain dead Monday. He was off life support Tuesday.