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Man Stays by Critically Injured Brother, Even After NYPD Declares Him Dead

By Gustavo Solis | June 11, 2013 7:09am
 Marvin Ramirez was struck by a sedan while crossing 108th Street.
Bicyclist Killed
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EAST HARLEM — Miguel Ramirez always looked out for his younger brother. 

A year ago, he helped scrounge up the $6,000 to bring his only sibling, Marvin, to New York from Guatemala. When Marvin arrived, Miguel welcomed his brother into the crowded East Harlem two-bedroom apartment he already shared with three cousins. 

Miguel, 20, also got his brother a job as a deliveryman at the Mexican restaurant where he worked as a cook. On a good week, the pair — who bore a striking resemblance to one another — would send $1,000 back to their parents and Marvin's girlfriend in their homeland. 

And last week, when Marvin, 18, needed his brother the most, after a horrific traffic accident left him with brain damage and on a respirator, Miguel was there — even after the NYPD mistakenly declared him dead.

For the last 24 hours of Marvin's life, Miguel sat by his side in the intensive care unit at Harlem Hospital, refusing to give up on his brother.

On the night of June 2, Marvin was riding back to the East Harlem restaurant Taqueria Guadalupe, after making a delivery on his bicycle. According to the police, he was riding east on 108th Street at 7:40 p.m. Sunday when he ran a red light.

A 2013 Dodge sedan driving north on Park Avenue struck Marvin, knocking him off his bike. The driver was not charged or issued a summons.

Marvin was rushed to Harlem Hospital, where he was treated for massive head trauma and a broken right arm.

A half-hour after the accident, a witness ran to Taqueria Guadalupe, where Miguel was working a shift. After hearing the news, the brother darted to the scene, but by the time he got there, Marvin had been taken to the hospital.

Miguel rushed to the hospital on 135th Street and Lenox Avenue, where he spent Sunday night alongside his brother.

With the help of a translator, doctors told him that Marvin was in serious condition. He was in bed unconscious with tubes sticking out of his nose, a cast on his right arm, a fever of 104 degrees and a brain hemorrhage.

“Please do whatever you can to help him,” Miguel told the doctor through a translator. “Don’t give up on him.”

But the next morning, the situation became more confusing for Miguel.

At 9:40 a.m., the NYPD released a statement to the press saying that Marvin had died.

On noon that day, a DNAinfo New York reporter contacted Miguel about the statement, but Miguel said his brother was still alive and he could see him breathing with the help of a respirator.

"Why are they saying that?” he asked. "They haven't called me."

Even though the police said Marvin's family had been notified of his death, Miguel said he was never contacted by cops.

On Thursday a spokesman for the city Health and Hospitals Corporation, which oversees the city's public hospitals, said patient confidentiality laws kept him from discussing the exact time of Marvin's death but he confirmed that the 18-year-old had stayed in the hospital.

"Let's just say the NYPD sometimes makes mistakes," the spokesman, Ian Michaels, said.

The NYPD did not respond to phone and email requests for comment about the error.

Even with a bruised and swollen face, Marvin looked like a skinny version of his older brother. Both grew to be about 5-foot-5, with black almond-shaped eyes, dark-brown skin and straight, black hair.

The brothers grew up in a small village of about 300 people near Quetzaltenango in western Guatemala, where the tallest building is the Catholic church. Villagers there speak in a Mayan language called Mam, which is used in parts of Guatemala and Mexico.

Although Ramirez enjoyed delivering food for Taqueria Guadalupe, he wanted to be promoted like his older brother and join him in the kitchen. Miguel had even been teaching him how to cook tacos before the accident.

“He was a hard working young man,” a 33-year-old coworker said in the hospital waiting room last Monday. “He never drank or smoked. He was happy to be here working for his family.”

That afternoon, Marvin's condition worsened. Doctors said his brother might be brain dead and they needed a specialist to confirm. Although the specialist wouldn't arrive until the next day, Miguel never left the hospital.

On Monday night, after a reporter showed him the police statement, Miguel asked a doctor if his brother was dead.

Doctors had run two reflex tests to see if Marvin was brain dead. In one of them, doctors stimulated his throat to see if the brain would tell the body to gag; in the other one they ran a cotton swab across his cornea to see if he would blink.

Marvin failed both tests.

“He is clinically brain dead but not officially brain dead,” the doctor responded.

Legally speaking, Marvin was still alive. The only test left was a measure of electric activity in the brain.

Miguel went back into the room and sat with his brother for the rest of the night.

On Tuesday, June 4, around 9 a.m. — almost 24 hours after the NYPD’s press release and 39 hours after he was hit by the car — Marvin was declared dead.

An hour later, the ICU waiting room filled with about a dozen of Marvin's friends. There were so many visitors, hospital staff wouldn't let them all come up at once.

Miguel had spent the last two nights trying to stay strong for his brother and fielding calls from family members asking for updates in Guatemala. He finally broke down and cried in the waiting room.

“[My parents] are very sad; crying and praying,” he said. “They’ve been calling all night for updates every few minutes.”

Even after death, Miguel refused to leave his little brother. He sat in the waiting room with his cousins and a lawyer, planning the funeral arrangements and figuring out how to pay the medical bills.

"We are transporting the body back to Guatemala," he said. "It is what my parents want."