Rex, Sanchez trying to help Jets fan

Associated Press  |  Last updated May 01, 2012
Michael Manganiello couldn't shake the overwhelming tired feeling, uncertain what was wrong with his body. He was fine just a few days earlier, but his concerned wife made him go to the hospital to get checked out. Less than a month later, the 44-year-old die-hard Jets fan and father of three is hospitalized and in for the fight of his life. ''We had no idea,'' Margo Manganiello said at a charity event held in her husband's honor Tuesday night. Manganiello of Wayside, N.J., was diagnosed last month with acute myelofibrosis, a rare condition in which progressive scarring of the bone marrow impairs its ability to make blood cells. His only chance is a bone marrow transplant, and Jets coach Rex Ryan, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and quarterback Mark Sanchez are trying to help. Pettine helped set up the event, ''A Match For Michael,'' which drew more than 400 fans to the Doubletree Hilton Hotel, through a mutual friend of the Manganiello family. Fans had their cheeks swabbed to register for the National Marrow Donor Program to find a potential match for Manganiello, and the event raised money for the program and the Manganiello family. ''It was just a no-brainer to step in and help,'' Pettine said. ''We don't get a lot of opportunities to do something like this where you have a chance to have such a great impact on a life.'' Nose tackle Sione Pouha and linebacker Aaron Maybin - along with Fireman Ed - also attended the event, which included autograph and picture sessions with the players and coaches. ''It's a story we hope to overcome today,'' Pouha said. ''The funny this is, the hotel is on Hope Road, and when I was driving here, I was like, `Wow, that's a nice, little touch.' I don't know if that happened by coincidence, but in an extreme case like this, we hope for a lot of things to come in terms of helping him out and getting him a match.'' Manganiello is being treated by two teams of doctors at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, and his wife said he has undergone a chemotherapy treatment that has removed some of the scarring of the bone marrow. ''Doctors were hoping that it would remove all of it, but unfortunately, it did not,'' Margo Manganiello said. ''He'll be recovering from that and he'll have to go in for one or two more chemotherapy treatments with the hopes that we can clean out this fibrosis before he can be a candidate for the bone marrow transplant.'' She said her husband, an avid runner, had ''very mild symptoms'' - his heart was beating irregular at times and his stamina wasn't as good - for about two or three weeks before he went to the hospital. After his blood work was examined, Manganiello was admitted because his white blood cell count was alarmingly low. At first, doctors thought it could be a form of leukemia, or maybe cancer. It wasn't long before it was discovered - about 2 1/2 weeks ago - that Manganiello had acute myelofibrosis - and he needed help fast. ''For myself having four kids, for me to leave them for offseason workouts, it's devastating,'' Pouha said. ''To be in a position he's in, I have an extreme closeness and sympathy for him and especially his kids and his wife.'' Pettine heard about the dire situation from his friend Diane Taglianette, who grew up with Margo Manganiello, and scrambled to quickly put together the event. ''When he asked us, it was the least we could do,'' Sanchez said. ''He said, `I don't want to bother you guys, and I hate asking,' but when he told us what the cause was, it was easy for us to want to help him.'' Added Ryan: ''I just put myself in that family's shoes, and I was like, `Wow.' I told (Pettine) if I could help in any way, that would be no problem.'' Sanchez and the other Jets players were hoping to give Manganiello a phone call in the hospital at some point during the night just to let him know he had their support - along with a few hundred fans. ''This is amazing,'' Margo Manganiello said. ''It's just very humbling how a community comes together like this for such a great cause.''
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