THE family of one of the world’s youngest-known coronavirus victims has revealed his dramatic four-day decline from ill football coach to death.
Francisco Garcia left his family, his friends and his club in shock and mourning after he died unexpectedly on Sunday.
Francisco’s doting stepdad Juan Fernandez, who raised Francis – as he was known to friends – since he was a four-year-old boy, told Sun Online: “We’ve devastated and still in a state of shock.
“He was such a healthy boy who loved life and loved his football. He was only 20. His 21st birthday wasn’t until October 8.
“He lived with us and everything was fine up until very recently.”
Speaking out on behalf of himself and Francisco’s mother Irene Gomez, 42, who was too devastated to talk, he said: “He felt a bit under the weather a week ago last Friday, (on March 6) but we just thought it was the onset of a common cold.
“He had a sore throat but he didn’t have a temperature.
“He spent the weekend resting at home on the sofa and watching TV.
“I took him in to see his GP on Monday of last week (on March 9) because he still wasn’t right.
“His doctor told him to take paracetamol and sent him home and said there was no need to worry.”
By the next day he couldn’t stand properly
Stepfather Juan Fernandez
His condition deteriorated overnight so his worried parents took him to a health centre the next day – but he was sent home again, this time with antibiotics.
Juan then told of the family’s frightening last day together as he said: “We didn’t think anything was really wrong and nor did they then.
“But by the next day he couldn’t stand up properly and he had a fever.
“We knew it was a bit more serious than a cold or the flu so we drove him to Carlos Haya Hospital where they admitted him immediately and put him on a ventilator.
“That was the last time Irene and I saw him.”
Francisco – an architectural design student – was diagnosed with pneumonia that day and they were told that they were going to test him for coronavirus – with his family refused access to see him because of the quarantine.
Juan continued: “They confirmed he had coronavirus the following day but also said they had detected something in his blood – which later turned out to be leukaemia.
“It was so much to take in. Francis was a heavyish lad but he was tall at 6ft 5ins and played football regularly with friends. He’d never complained of any health problems.
“We knew coronavirus was killing people – but we never thought it would kill Francis.
“Finding out about the leukaemia was a hammer-blow. But it’s treatable and we would have been able to think about things like a bone marrow transplant if we’d have had more time.
“We were told he had died on Sunday. All we had over those four days was telephone contact with the hospital. We couldn’t speak to Francis, we didn’t see him and we couldn’t pay our last respects.
“He was taken to the cemetery without us being able to say goodbye to him.
“We can’t get our heads around what’s happened.
“A fortnight ago we were a normal family. Francis was enjoying every minute of his football.
“Now I’m stuck indoors with my wife and my mother-in-law, grieving and worrying if we’ve all got coronavirus too.”
And warning others, he added: “We’re proof that this virus needs to be taken deadly seriously. Francis had pneumonia and leukaemia but I’m sure it was the coronavirus that took him so quickly.
“He went from having a sore throat and feeling a bit poorly to being unable to stand on his own two feet in just four days.”
Wakes and cemetery visits banned
Paco Gallego, who co-ordinates seven-a-side football at Atletico Portada Alta, Malaga, where Francisco had trained an under-14 side since 2016 and helped with another younger team, added: “Francis phoned me on the Friday before he was admitted to hospital saying he felt a bit unwell.
“He said he had a temperature and we knew there was a virus going around although people weren’t afraid of it like they are now.
“There was a game that weekend and I told him: ‘Don’t worry, stay at home. I can cover you on the bench.’
“That was the last conversation we had.
“I only found out Francis had leukaemia after he died.
“I spoke with Juan at lunchtime on Sunday and he told me Francis was serious but stable and the doctors were saying that was a good sign.
“Then around 7pm that evening what happened happened.
“The government has banned people from organising wakes for their loved ones because of the risk of infection and Francis’ parents haven’t even been able to go the cemetery to say goodbye to him.
“His body was incinerated on Monday.
“He was just a boy, he was very close to people at the football club, he was very close to me.
“He was always so happy and always laughing. Losing someone like him so young has left us all devastated.”
Almost 300 people have died in Spain since the Covid-19 outbreak.
Garcia was the fifth victim of the pandemic in the Malaga region, but by far the youngest – with the others in their 70s or 80s.
His pre-existing but undiagnosed leukaemia is said to have affected his ability to fight off the virus, with local health authorities claiming he would have otherwise recovered.
It’s thought Garcia could be the youngest person in the world to die as a result of coronavirus – although a baby in the UK tragically contracted the disease last week.
Spanish football, including LaLiga, has already been suspended and Spaniards have now been told to stay at home, with Italy on total lockdown and France recently closing pubs, restaurants, cinemas and shops.
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The youngest victim in the UK so far was 45-year-old Craig Ruston, an “amazing” father-of two who had motor neurone disease and whose wife paid tribute last night after he died yesterday.
The UK death toll has rocketed to 71, with the number of recorded cases at 1,590.
As of now, Spain has 8,744 reported coronavirus cases, with 297 people having passed away.