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‘OUR LIFE CHANGED FOREVER’
During a colonoscopy at 53, Ramon received the news that would change his life forever. Still groggy from the procedure,
doctors informed him that they had found cancer. Ramon was in shock. He had undergone another routine colonoscopy just
three years prior and was cleared.
“I had no symptoms. I wasn’t sick, I was in the best shape of my life,” Ramon said. “I was seeing a nutritionist, eating right,
running. I kept waking up in the morning thinking I was dreaming all of this – that I was having a bad nightmare.”
The following months were difficult for Ramon. Three weeks after the diagnosis, he underwent surgery to get his intestines re-
sectioned and the tumor removed. He started chemo just a few weeks after.
“Trying to recover from that surgery and being pumped with chemo at the same time takes a toll on the body,” Cindy said. “It
was a really difficult time for him, just feeling ill. He wanted to get to work bad.”
When finally returned to work, he suffered side effects from the chemo, including a bloody rash on his face that forced him off
the street and onto desk duty.
“That drove him crazy. He’s not one to stare at four walls, it would get him depressed. He just wanted to be out there, helping
people,” Cindy said.
‘YOU’VE NEVER SEEN SO MUCH WATER’
By the time Harvey hit, Ramon had healed enough to return to the streets. When he reported to Lake Patrol, his energy level
was unusually high, and it wasn’t just the adrenaline. He’d skipped his chemo treatment the week prior because of a low platelet
count. The break meant his strength had built up, but it also meant that conducting water rescues – already a health hazard for
any cop – came at an even higher risk.
“I could have got an infection with that dirty water, but it didn’t even dawn on me,” Ramon said “I was so busy working. I wasn’t
thinking about it at all – like I don’t even have cancer.”
Over three grueling days, Ramon saved hundreds from the floodwaters in a complex rescue operation. One of the biggest
challenges was the boats they used. Designed for lakes, they required a substantial amount of water to launch.
“We’re out there trying to find somewhere where we can launch because you need at least two, three feet of water,” Ramon
said. “And the trucks that we’re in sit low, so you can’t back in all the way without water getting in the truck. So we had to find a
street, unhook the trailer, push the trailer all the way to the boat sitting in deep enough water, then push the trailer back, hook it
to the truck. Trying to launch those boats and then recovering them took a lot of manpower.”
Battling through Harvey required an extraordinary level of endurance – much higher than previous hurricanes Ramon had
faced. Its power was unrelenting.
“God, you’ve never seen so much water,” Ramon said. “It was nonstop rain. You never got a break. No relief.”
When Ramon and his team worked the neighborhood of Kingwood, they faced dangerous current. Boats were getting crushed
against trees and there was no margin for error.
“As soon as we unloaded our boat we had to power it, because if not, you’re getting swept into a tree,” Ramon said. “One of the
other boats hit that current and got swept and overturned. Six officers went overboard. So we lost one boat.”
Picking up flood victims wasn’t always easy. Some needed convincing before they were willing to evacuate.
“What was surprising is these apartments still had power, even the homes that were under water,” Ramon said. “So the people
on the second and third floors, they were like, ‘We still have power, why should we leave?’ And then they’d ask me how much
higher the water was going to get. The second time you came around, they usually changed their mind.”
Further complicating matters, Ramon had limited contact with Cindy, who watched as the next neighborhood over slowly flooded
and water crept closer to their home. Luckily, it never got that far.
“I felt helpless because I couldn’t go over there to help, I just had to give advice over the phone,” Ramon said. “I had set a
generator for my wife and then she lost power. I did a little video for her on how to start it, so she was able to fire it up.”
Through all of this, Ramon’s colleagues had no idea he was ill.
“The only one that knew was the sergeant in charge. He just asked me, ‘You good, you OK to go?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m ready.’ And
we went from there. It was just back and forth going to these apartment complexes, loading up that boat, all day long,” Ramon
HOPE IN HOUSTON
The streets and sidewalks are littered with construction materials. Storage pods dot the neighborhoods. Three months after
Harvey tore through Houston, the city – and Ramon – are pushing forward. Many of Ramon’s fellow LEOs lost their homes in the
hurricane, and the devastation all around the city he’s worked in for so long has made the officer’s sense of duty – to serve,
inspire, and rebuild – stronger than ever.
“He’s officer first, cancer second,” Cindy said. “He says, ‘I refuse to let cancer win here.’ I’m impressed and so amazed at the
strength that he’s maintained. It’s been a battle. But he doesn’t want anybody giving him special privileges. During Harvey, he
had every right to say, ‘I’m going to stay home.’ But he refused to stay home. He said, ‘I want to be out there, I want to be part of
this, I need to help.’”
“I love what I do,” Ramon said. “It’s a different challenge every day; you meet all different types of people in all different types of
situations. If I let the cancer dwell on me then it would eat me up mentally. So I just take it day by day. Keep going like I don’t
even have it.”
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