ABC11 Together wants you to "Be the Match"

DURHAM (WTVD) -- This Saturday, ABC11 Together wants you to join us for our Match Madness event to hopefully 'Be the Match' for someone and give them a new lease on life.

As a retired Green Beret from Fayetteville knows firsthand, it's a gift that can be the difference between life and death.

It was last year around this time when an otherwise healthy Julio Ramirez suddenly fell very ill.

"It got to the point where I couldn't breathe anymore. I had a serious stomach pain, a fever going up to 105. So, I told my wife, 'I can't breathe, so you can't take me to the hospital, we need to call 911.' So I was rushed to Ft. Bragg," he recalled.

After stabilizing him and running some tests, they came back with the startling diagnosis of AML Leukemia.

"In the Army, you prepare for everything, you're prepared to give your life away, you're prepared for everything. I was not prepared to have leukemia. The first thing that was going through my head was my family... I'm going to die, I'm going to leave them alone," Julio admitted.

Julio was taken to UNC Hospitals where he started chemotherapy right away. It was there that he learned his best bet was to receive a bone marrow transplant.

Luckily, he went into remission, but he still needed the transplant to ensure the blood cancer didn't come back. Doctors began testing his family members, and they discovered that one of his brothers, Enrique, was indeed a match.

Julio got the bone marrow transplant from him in August and has remained in remission since then.

"I'm so grateful to my brother, my middle name is Cesar, but I'm going to change my name to Julio Enrique," he said with a smile.

Besides changing his middle name to honor his brother's gift, Julio is also sharing his story in the hopes of encouraging others to join the registry. He knows not everyone waiting for a match will be lucky as he was.

The ABC11 Match Madness Bone Marrow Donor Registration Drive is taking place at center court at The Streets of Southpoint this Saturday. We'll be out there from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The whole process takes less than 20 minutes and involves a simple swab of your cheek.

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