On Thursday night, David Glen could hardly sleep. He was excited and he was anxious.
It was a restless night for the Penn State forward because he was unsure of what would await him on Friday. That day would mark the start of becoming a bone marrow donor. That day would mark the start of helping save someone’s life.
“I was a little antsy, obviously,” said the sophomore. “I woke up a few times thinking about it, but I’m pretty excited about it. This is Day One and I’m looking forward to continuing with the process.”
On Friday, Glen went to Geisinger-Bloomsburg Hospital in Bloomsburg, P.A. – roughly an hour and half away from campus – to have blood drawn and take a series of injections to start the five-day process. He’ll have another four days' worth of injections of filgrastim, a drug Glen has trouble pronouncing, but which will increase the number of blood-forming cells in his bloodstream.
“I’m feeling pretty well right now, actually,” said Glen after his first day of treatment at the hospital. “I was actually in and out of there in about an hour and it was not too painful, so it was good.”
The treatments are expected to leave Glen with some flu-like symptoms, along with aches in his bones and back. He’ll need anywhere between 7-10 days of recovery time, though because he’s an athlete, Glen is hoping it might be less.
As a result, however, the 21-year-old will miss three games for the Nittany Lions – Saturday against Boston College and next weekend’s series against Big Ten rivals Ohio State. He said everyone associated with the team have been incredibly supportive, including the team’s medical staff, which helped him do research when he was told he was a match back in December.
“Everyone’s excited for me,” said Glen. “No one was really sure what it involved because there were so many variant stories of how long people are sidelined with this type of procedure. Now that they know what it’s all about I think people are just genuinely happy and I couldn’t appreciate it more.”
Glen said he’s hoping to attend Saturday’s home game, if he’s up to it, and watch his team on the Internet next weekend while they’re on the road.
The native of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., admits this process has put hockey in greater perspective.
“A lot of people say it’s a sacrifice not to play,” said Glen. “But hockey is just a game and this is an opportunity that goes beyond that.
“This gives me the chance to save a life and give someone a second chance at living.”
Glen became a donor in November 2012 when the team participated in a drive to find a bone marrow match for Kim Roper, the mother of Penn State lacrosse player Drew Roper. The drive was organized through Be The Match, a national marrow donor program in the U.S.
At the time, the Nittany Lions centre didn’t think twice about having an oral swab sample collected, because he never really thought he’d be a match. Getting swabbed was painless and took less than five minutes.
“There were so many people there that day,” said Glen. “I thought what are the chances? I think our whole team went in with that kind of attitude, like, ‘it’s probably not going to be me anyway, so why not.’”
According to the Be The Match website, the odds of becoming a match and donating are 1 in 540.
“I’m happy it was me,” said Glen, of the odds. “I’m happy the way things worked out and I’m fortunate for the opportunity. I’m grateful and I’m thankful that I’m the one that got picked.
“Being able to help someone like this doesn’t come around very often.”
That someone, due to confidentiality requirements, is still a mystery to Glen. All he knows is that the recipient is a woman. He said that in the future, if she’d like to meet him, well, “that would be great.”
Coincidentally, Friday is also ‘White Out for Mandi’ night at Yale when the women’s ice hockey team plays Brown. Mandi Schwartz, a standout hockey player at Yale, lost her battle with acute myeloid leukemia in April 2011 after battling the disease for more than two years. Her younger brother, Jaden, plays for the St. Louis Blues and the NHL team will be attendance to help raise funds and awareness for bone marrow donation.
Jaden also played his hockey in the NCAA at Colorado College and, oddly enough, he and Glen share a good mutual friend. Glen said he’s been following the ‘White Out’ closely, though it never occurred to him the bone marrow drive to honour Mandi Schwartz fell on the same day he started the process of saving his match.
“It’s all for a good cause and one obviously I’m fully supportive of,” said Glen with the hint of a laugh. “That’s a really cool thing that they’re doing.”
He encourages more people to be tested to see if they, too, can become potential donors.
“Why not get tested?” asks Glen. “If you (get picked) from what I’ve gone through, so far, with all the support I’ve gotten, it’s just been such an amazing process."