Texas shooting: Husband of slain teacher has died of 'a broken heart,' his family said

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Irma and Joe Garcia.
  • Joe Garcia, the husband of slain Robb elementary teacher Irma Garcia, died Thursday morning, the family reported. 
  • Joe died of a "broken heart" and "grief," his family said. 
  • "Broken heart syndrome" mimics symptoms of a heart attack and can be deadly, doctors say. 
  • For more stories visit Business Insider.

Two days after his wife was killed in the deadliest school shooting in a decade, Joe Garcia died of what relatives say was "grief" and "a broken heart."

His wife, teacher Irma Garcia, was a fourth-grade teacher at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. She was one of two adults killed Tuesday after an 18-year-old gunman stormed the school, killing 19 children. She and Joe had four children. 

"You are so known by many now, and I'm so happy that people know your name and that beautiful face of yours and they know what a hero looks like," one daughter, Adalynn, wrote on social media after the massacre. "I don't know how to do this life without you, but I will take care of dad."  

A post shared by @wokedoctors

Then, on Thursday morning, Joe died "as a result of a medical emergency," Irma's cousin wrote on a GoFundMe page for the teacher. 

"I truly believe Joe died of a broken heart and losing the love of his life of more than 30 years was too much to bear," the cousin wrote. Joe "passed away due to grief," his nephew added on Twitter Thursday. 

Cardiologists say dying of "broken heart syndrome," also known as "takotsubo cardiomyopathy," is possible, but rare. 

What is broken heart syndrome?

While broken heart syndrome mimics symptoms of a heart attack, like chest pain and shortness of breath, it doesn't cause muscle damage or blockages in the heart, Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, president of the American Heart Association, told Insider.  

The condition is also called "takotsubo cardiomyopathy," so named by the Japanese doctors who discovered it because the ballooning of the heart's left ventricle resembles a takotsubo, an octopus trap, Insider previously reported

The rush of hormones behind stress cardiomyopathy is believed to "stun" the cells, temporarily inhibiting function. It can cause fatal complications if the heart can't keep up with blood flow and pressure builds.

The death of a loved one, a serious medical diagnosis, a job loss or divorce, or even the shock of winning the lottery can trigger the condition. 

"We don't really understand the actual brain mechanism, but the brain response to intense emotion leads the sympathetic nervous system to release hormones to the heart," Harvard psychiatrist Dr. F. Gerard Moeller Insider's Gabby Landsverk previously reported

"It usually happens with 24 hours of a severe stressor, such as someone close to you dying," he added. "It's not the standard stress that you have every day, or at work."

Lloyd-Jones told Insider in a statement on Thursday that no one can know exactly how or why Joe died without reviewing his medical records. "What I can tell you is that research has shown extremely stressful events can have a severe and sometimes fatal impact on someone's heart," he said.

"It appears to be a function of exposure to high levels of catecholamines (adrenaline and similar hormones) that can overstress the heart," he wrote. "In most patients, there is a full recovery with medication support, but in rare cases it can lead to dangerous heart rhythms or heart failure symptoms that can lead to death."

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