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Firefighters win lotto, donate to one of their own

  • Firefighters win $10,000 of the Mega Millions jackpot
  • They donate part of the haul to a colleague who needs brain surgery
  • Vince Cordova is asking for prayers, says he's so blessed
Firefighters win lotto, donate to one of their ownLeft to right: Sitien Do, Clinton Anderson, Paul McClure, Steven Keffer, Jed Hyland

 24-year-old firefighter Vince Cordova was diagnosed with a rare and serious brain tumor

We already know what you’d do if you won the Mega Millions: Buy a chocolate speed boat, fill a swimming pool full of $1 bills or pay off your debt...

A group of Albuquerque firefighters actually did win a piece of the jackpot and here’s what they did: donate part of their share to a fellow firefighter in need of brain surgery.

The men had never started a lotto pool at the station, but with so much at stake, they thought, why not? So they procrastinated the day away (ran a few calls, saved a few lives), then picked up their tickets right at the last minute.

They actually missed the reading of the numbers and, when they looked them up online, thought for sure that one of the guys who was good with computers was playing a prank. It was the day before April Fools’ after all.

But nope -- it was true, they had just struck it somewhat rich. It may not have been the $640 million jackpot, but it was still pretty good -- $10,000 (before taxes, of course).

“Being the calm, cool, collected, emergency responder I am, I had the ticket in my hand and ran screaming through the station telling everybody that we hit five of six numbers,” Captain Jed Hyland tells HLN.

Everyone in Station 8 went in on the pool -- the captain, lieutenant, two drivers and a firefighter -- and all told they walked away with about $1400 a person.

And what’s the first thing they did? Divide it up and donate it to a friend in need.

“These are families that are literally counting groceries every week,” says Hyland. “They volunteer to give up some of their earnings right away rather than schedule that trip to Disneyland. It’s a credit to these guys that they decided to go that route.”

And when we say they donated to a “friend,” we really mean colleague, but when you’re talking firefighters, there’s no difference between the two.

That friend is 24-year-old Vince Cordova. He has served as a firefighter for three years and has a rare and serious brain tumor called “Jugular Foramen Schwannoma.”

Cordova traveled 14 hours to Los Angeles with his mom, dad and girlfriend (and that's not counting the hours they spent having his Jeep repaired after it started smoking). He's now at St. Vincent Medical Center, waiting on a specialized surgery that will remove the two golf ball-sized tumors from his brain. It'll set him and his family back hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It’s all a drop in the bucket in contrast to the huge amount of money he’s going to owe,” says Hyland. But that’s not really the point.

“Firefighters are family and when firefighters are called upon to help one of their own, they do,” says Hyland.

The donation will actually be going to the Firefighter Survivors Fund, which will mostly be helping Cordova but could also benefit other firefighters in need.

We spoke to Cordova, who sounded upbeat as he was signing release forms and waiting to meet more specialists.

"I'm more nervous than I've ever been in my entire life for anything -- times 10," he tells HLN.

"The brotherhood in the fire department is so strong. We help our own on and off work. We're family," Cordova says. "I'm so blessed, I have so much support. It's awesome."

Cordova is being admitted to the hospital Tuesday morning and his big surgery will take place at 10 a.m. PT on Wednesday. All he's asking for is a lot of prayers.

If you want to read more about Cordova’s story or make a donation, check out his blog:

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