San Diego Fire Relief Association

Sergio Rivera


June 2019 was going well for the Rivera family. Sergio had just graduated from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s 87th Fire Academy, and they were moving to San Diego while he was on probation for a year. All was going great, but then, his daughter, 11-year-old Sofia began to feel nauseous and was vomiting frequently. 

Sofia had always been pretty healthy, active, happy, and energetic. She participated in cheer, cross country, dance, and soccer. Her illness immediately prompted her dad to take her to Urgent Care in Los Angeles where she was diagnosed with a stomach flu and was given meds for the nausea. Sofia’s symptoms continued for 3 weeks, and on June 21st, everything changed. Sofia got very sick. Sergio knew something was very wrong, so they immediately took her to the local emergency room. 

The doctors ran a lengthy list of tests, and 4 hours later, they determined that Sofia had kidney failure. On June 23rd, Sofia was admitted to Rady’s Children Hospital in San Diego. After more tests, doctors determined that Sofia had the autoimmune disease P ANCA Vasculitis. This was causing her end stage Renal Failure at only 11 years old. Sofia was required to undergo Hemodialysis and follow a severely strict diet for several months. Her family drove 50 miles each way, 3 times a week, for 6 months to attend Sofia’s 3 ½ hour long treatments. It was hard on the Rivera family physically, but it was painful for or them to watch their little angel be so strong during all of the tests and treatments. It took Sofia out of sports, out of school, and away from her friends and daily life of being a kid.

Thankfully, Sofia’s treatment was going well, so they transitioned to Hemodialysis once a week to help Sofia return to a semi-normal home life. She could now go to school and see her friends in a modified setting, but she still needed more medical care. Sofia needed a kidney transplant to save her life and would require a second one later down the road. The Rivera family was told by the UCLA transplant team that she would most likely be on the UNOS listing (the nation’s private non-profit organization that manages all organ transplants) for at least 2 years unless they could find a living donor. Immediately, Sergio submitted all the paperwork and endured all of the testing to see if he was a match for his baby girl. Sergio is a Firefighter, ready to save the lives of those he doesn’t know as a day job. He would stop at nothing to save the life of his little warrior princess, Sofia.

In April 2020, the family’s prayers were answered. Not only was Sergio a match for Sofia, but he was more than the required match percentage needed to donate one of his kidneys to his princess. Since this was Sofia’s first transplant, the higher percent match meant that there was a lower chance of her body’s rejection of the new kidney. Along with this good news, Sergio had just passed all of his testing to become an official San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Firefighter. 

Surgery was scheduled at UCLA’s Transplant Center in July 2020. Sofia and Sergio were expected to be in the hospital for a few weeks to monitor the healing process and make sure that Sofia’s body didn’t reject Sergio’s kidney. After that, they would need 6-8 more weeks to heal and recover, keeping Sergio out of work for an extended period of time. The Rivera’s knew that they would need some assistance from their fire family so that they could focus on the surgery and Sofie’s health. 

FirefighterAid quickly stepped in to help the newest members of our fire family. We assisted with a GoFundMe account that raised over the needed $15,000 goal, we helped to cover the cost of their accommodations for after the surgery and provided lots of love and support! And who was the #1 supporter of all this assistance?! It was YOU! 

Sergio and Sofia had a more than successful transplant surgery! Sofia’s kidney started producing urine before the anesthesia had even worn off. The specialist at UCLA said that it seemed as though Sergio grew the perfect organ his daughter needed. The amazing duo was so strong they only had to stay in the after-care facility for one week. 

When you have a person who is willing to risk their own life in exchange for someone else’s on the daily, it’s amazing to see what they can do when they know who they are risking their life for… especially their little girl. Sergio and Sofia are doing extremely well post-surgery! They’ve been getting right back to their active lifestyles by working out and hiking regularly. The Rivera family has asked us to pass on a message to you all as they are extremely thankful for all the support you have given them. 


7/28/2020 – Sergio and Sofia’s Transplant and Recovery

9/31/2020 – Sergio and Sofia Update

San Diego Fire Relief Association

Honoring Ryan Ferrara (1981-2020)

RYAN FERRARA  1981-2020

SDFD Engineer/Paramedic Ryan Ferrara answered his last alarm on July 18, 2020. Ryan spent more than 13 years on the job. His life was tragically cut short in an off-duty motorcycle accident. He was man who was always smiling and loved to be outdoors – riding motorcycles, surfing, and more. Ryan started working for the city in 2001 as a lifeguard and made the transition to become a Firefighter Paramedic in 2007.  

His family and friends hosted a livestream of a private ceremony to celebrate his life. Due to the state-mandated COVID-19 measures of 2020, the family was not able to host an in-person service. To honor Ryan, they hosted a livestream of the service from multiple social media outlets to allow for friends, family, and firefighter family to join.

After the private ceremony, there was an opportunity for friends and loved ones to share their support from within their vehicles by participating in an Honor Procession beginning on Quivira Way in Mission Bay. Personnel were on location to assist in the formation of the procession. Additionally, there was a sunset paddle out, a Station 21 tradition, in his honor.

The Ferrara Family truly appreciates your understanding and thanks you for all the love, support, and compassion. Ryan, may you rest easy now and let your fire family carry the load.


7/31/2020 – Ryan Ferrara’s Celebration of Life Private Service

Hundreds remember San Diego Firefighter killed in motorcycle crash

Friends Remember Fallen Firefighter