ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After serving the Albuquerque metro for nearly two decades, firefighter Darrick Pino is now counting on others. Pino is in need of a heart transplant and the community is stepping in to help.

On the morning of Feb. 10, Pino, feeling ill, went to work a 24-hour shift in Downtown Albuquerque, but after clocking out, he knew something wasn’t right. “Drove straight to the hospital from station four and had shortness of breath, chest pain and they did a bunch of MRIs and tests,” said Albuquerque Firefighter, Darrick Pino.

Pino says doctors at the time believed he had pneumonia. So, after taking a week off from work, he returned, but so did his symptoms. “I worked one or two days, I kept telling my cap I’m not feeling good. After running more tests, Pino was transported to a Utah hospital where doctors found several pulmonary embolisms in his heart and lungs. “I caught a virus and it attacked my heart; it was unusual the way the virus was because it usually attacks one side, but this virus actually attacked both sides of my heart.”

Pino, who lives a healthy lifestyle, says he couldn’t believe what doctors were telling him. The unknown virus he had contracted was attacking his heart, creating a need for a heart transplant. “If it’s going to jeopardize my health or my time with my family…it breaks my heart, but I will probably have to step down as a firefighter.” Now as doctors try to stabilize his heart using medications, Pino says the bills just keep piling up. This has been placing yet another burden on him and his family. “We just saw that bill and it’s $189,000; that was just the first seven days.”

Pino says it’s been hard thinking about the future. “I’ve never been this scared. We run into burning buildings, I’ve been in some horrific car accidents, and nothing has ever been this scary.” Part of what the Albuquerque firefighter says keeps him going is the overwhelming outpour of support he’s received from the community, his friends, family, and his brotherhood of firefighters. “That first seven days they were there every day; I had from the chief all the way down to the firefighters. My firefighters back home, thank you. I love you,” said Pino.

In support of Pino, Bubbas 33 will host a Dine to Donate fundraiser on Mar. 22, as well as on Apr. 3 and 4. A GoFundMe has been set up to help with the family’s $50,000 goal.