The awards on his bedroom wall remind 27 year old Ryan Manansala of his impact on children with disabilities. His whole life has been centered around making a difference with autistic children.
But six months ago, Manansala's life was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with rare form of leukemia. For man used to helping others, he found himself asking for help from his community.
"It's not just for me. Also, I'm asking for help," Manansala said from his San Jose home. "But at the same time, it's shining light on the community in general especially in the Asian American population."
Manansala desperately needs a bone marrow or an umbilical cord blood transplant to survive. He can't turn to his family, because they are not matching donors. So like 70 percent of patients in need of a transplant, he must turn to strangers for help.
"It's painful because you don't expect it to happen to you. But when it happens, you get stuck with it. There's no exit, no matter you have to deal with it," Manansala said.
Even more painful is watching his family suffer with him.
"My dad was there in the hospital two times a day. He didn't have to do that," Manansala said. "It's more painful just to watch him watch me go through it I guess."
Manansala has had to take a leave from his job at Aspiranet in South San Jose to concentrate on his fight against leukemia. Those who work with him say his tough journey to get better has inspired them.
"And to be alive and to be able to listen to his music while sitting at a light," Sheri Reynolds, Aspiranet District Director, said. "That really stuck with me to really think about looking at the silver lining."
Manansala, a Filipino American, knows the search for a matching donor is challenging. The most successful transplants occur between people who share similar DNA because of their racial or ethnic background. Less than one percent of potential donors are Filipino.
"If I don't find a match. That's not fine. But it's something I have to deal with it. But at least hopefully in the future someone else can find a match," Manansala said.
If you would like to help Ryan Manasala and want to know more about donating bone marrow please click here: http://operationsaveryan.tumblr.com/ and the Asian American Donor Program website: http://www.aadp.org/