UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In our daily lives we all try to find little ways to help the people we know. But what if you had the chance to save the life of a complete stranger? Men's hockey assistant captain David Glen was presented that opportunity and the 21 year-old sophomore jumped at it.
"Last year, Drew Roper's mom was looking for a bone marrow match, so our whole team went and got swabbed," said Glen. "Unfortunately none of us were a match, but they keep you in their database. I got a call last spring telling me that I might be a match for someone else."
The 2012-13 season had ended and Glen was among a pool of people who gave blood to find out which one would be the best match for the recipient. It wasn't until this fall, however, that Glen actually found out he was the best match for an unknown recipient to donate by the Be The Match registry.
When he found out he was a match, the fall semester was already underway. Glen was focused on school work and hockey, serving as one of the coordinators for captain's practices, which are an important part of college hockey since organized team practices with coaches can start just one week prior to the start of the season.
With everything going on around him, Glen immediately knew he had been presented with an opportunity to give someone a second chance, so he immediately began his research.
"Right off the bat, I started looking into the process," said Glen. "I did some research and Be The Match provided a lot of information and resources, as well. I touched base with our athletic trainer and team physician and they did some research for me, as well. I feel like I was very thorough with my research before I got into it."
As thorough as Glen was, this was a decision that would need to be run by a couple of important parties.
A native of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta - which is nearly 2,300 miles away from the University Park campus - Glen made a phone call to his father.
John Glen, David's father, admits that he was a little hesitant at first, but once David had done his research and made his decision he was on board.
"I was kind of naive about the whole process at first," said John. "I thought it would be in his best interest to do some research, ask the appropriate people the appropriate questions and get educated on the process. He did that...I told him that no matter how many games he misses it is trivial in comparison to the gift he is giving in return."
The next person who David would need to inform was his head coach, Guy Gadowsky; so he set up a meeting.
When asked about the meeting, both parties admitted there were nerves involved, but Glen laid out his opportunity for Gadowsky and the bench boss couldn't have been more impressed with the mettle of his young forward.
"He asked to talk with me and I had no idea what it was about," said Gadowsky. "He came in and told me that he was a [bone marrow] match for someone and, if he went through with it [donating], he would be missing a few games...He didn't think twice about it and neither did I. We are very proud of the way he has handled the situation."
Gadowsky talked about how respectful Glen was when inquiring the coaching staff about being a donor and Gadowsky said no one - not even Glen - had any reservations about it.
His head coach had that look in his eye when asked about his initial thoughts. You know the look, that of a proud father, and Glen felt the same way when leaving the meeting.
"I was a little nervous [going into the meeting]," said Glen. "I didn't know how long I was going to be out, but he [Gadowsky] was 100 percent behind me. He was actually pretty excited about it. That meeting could not have gone better."
He now had a lot of things to take care of before he could let anyone else in on the situation. He needed to get a physical and had a plethora of paperwork to complete. He also eventually needed the time table for the procedure.
"At first it was pretty broad, but the process got more serious in December, when I found out I was the match and that it would take place in the middle of the season."
A middle of the season donation meant missing games, so now he needed to inform his teammates. He let word of mouth spread the news around the locker room, starting by telling his roommates and pretty soon the whole team knew and stood firmly behind their leader.
"We have a really tight-knit group and this is a very unique opportunity, so to have their support is great. They all understand that hockey is just a game and this is something much bigger than that."
Sophomore Kenny Brooks is one of Glen's roommates and echoed those comments.
"There was never a question in anyone's mind that he would go through with this once he found out he was a match," said Brooks. "Everyone understands why he is missing games and we are completely supportive of what he is doing."
Glen said many times that this was something he didn't 'want to make a big deal about.' For him, this is solely about giving someone a second chance and that's exactly the type of person he is according to his head coach.
"This is who David Glen is," said Gadowsky. "Anyone who knows David is not surprised by any of this. I don't think he really had to think about it all that much...He's a good hockey player, but it doesn't define him. This is who David Glen is deep down."
The donation process will begin on Friday, Jan. 24 when he travels to Geisinger-Bloomsburg Hospital to begin the five-day process.
"I have taken my physical exams and this week I start a series of injections," said Glen.
The process is called a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation and begins with a series of shots for five days leading up to the donation. The injections contain a drug called filgrastim, which increases the number of blood-forming cells - or blood stem cells - in the bloodstream. He will take the first injection at the hospital, followed by three injections from Penn State ATC Justin Rogers, under the direction of the team physician.
On Tuesday, Jan. 28, Glen will travel back to Bloomsburg for the PBSC procedure, which is referred to as apheresis. The doctors will draw blood through a needle in one arm, pass the blood through a machine that will collect only the blood-forming cells and the remaining blood is returned to his body via a needle in the other arm.
A 7-10 day timetable is typical for recovery in most PBSC donors and mild bone pain can results due to the excessive stem cell crowding within the bone marrow, but this is something that Glen is prepared for.
He still has barely any information regarding the person whom he will be helping, which is standard protocol, but in life, like in sports, you never know when you are going to get a second chance.
"I am excited about this," said Glen. "They only give you basic information because of confidentiality concerns, but that doesn't matter."
All he knows is that it is a 50-something year-old female, but that is enough for Glen. He wasn't going to pass up his chance to give someone else a second chance at a healthy life.
"You never know when you are going to get the opportunity to help some like this and you never know if it is going to happen again," Glen said. "This is a rare opportunity that I am grateful and fortunate to have been chosen for."