St. Croix Paramedic Loses 3-Year Battle With Colon Cancer, Dies At Age 42
CHRISTIANSTED — St. Croix paramedic Nowel Garcia sadly lost his battle with cancer at the age of 42.
The Virgin Islands Department of Health issued a statement Thursday extending condolences to Garcia’s family and friends after his death on October 13.
Garcia had served with the department’s Division of Emergency Medical Services since 2002 in every position from emergency medical technician to paramedic, and was most recently serving as acting EMT supervisor for St. Croix, Health said on Facebook.
“I met Nowel a year when he accompanied Dr. Cebedo to the operating room as a summer student,” Maria Cruz said. “I was a registered nurse working there. We became friends and kept in touch since. Also worked with him at Pinnacle, a Hess contractor. Always professional and polite. I will miss him blowing the siren of the ambulance every time he crossed my car on the road. My condolences to his family and the EMS family. We lost a great person!”
Virgin Islands EMS ambulances and quick response vehicles on St. Croix “will bear orange, blue and white ribbons in his memory,” and “he will be missed,” the social media statement said.
The nonprofit St. Croix Archery club also issued a statement on social media, that “Nowel Garcia was a part of making Archery on St. Croix a success; he will be missed by many.”
The club also set up a memorial target on the field during the weekend to collect donations to help raise funds for his family.
During the last few years, Garcia received an outpouring of support from the community.
“I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2017. I’ve already had several surgeries,” Garcia told The Virgin Islands Daily News in September 2019. “Unfortunately, they found a very large mass in my abdomen. It has spread.”
Garcia said he went through six months of chemotherapy after his 2017 diagnosis and used all of his accumulated sick leave and vacation time during treatment.
“At the end of that treatment I returned to caring for the sick with renewed energy knowing how it felt to be a patient too,” he said.
After doctors discovered the new mass in 2019, coworkers donated their own paid time off so Garcia could travel to Florida for chemotherapy.
They also made an online plea to other Virgin Islands government employees to donate leave time to help Garcia get the care he needed.
“I’m extremely appreciative,” Garcia said last year. “I am humbled by the response that I got from the community.”