The Steelheads will don pink sweaters this weekend as they do every season, partnering with St. Luke’s to help raise money and awareness for cancer research. It’s a special weekend for the organization and for Steelheads fans to make a difference in the fight against cancer. One Steelheads rookie already knows the impact a single person can make.
Steelheads fans have already gotten a first-hand look at the kind of teammate David Glen has been in Idaho. After playing four years at Penn State University as a forward, and beginning this season up front as well, Head Coach Neil Graham moved Glen back to the blue line with the Steelheads defense corps limited with injuries. It was Glen who offered that he might be able to play defense, and he’s been so effective on the back end that the Steelheads have largely kept him there ever since.
The selfless attitude of David Glen accomplished much more than a roster move when he was a sophomore at Penn State. While a student athlete with the Nittany Lions during the 2013-14 season, Glen put his season on hold to save a life.
“One of the lacrosse players’ moms at Penn State was in need of a bone marrow donor. They held a drive and we decided that our whole team should go down,” said Glen, who went down with teammates in November 2012 to have his mouth swabbed for the Match4Kim Drive. Glen was not a match for that woman, but his phone still rang with the news that he was a match for someone else.
“I got called maybe a month later and they told me I was a match, not for her but for someone else. I went in there not thinking much of it and I got picked.”
It took several months before it was determined that Glen could donate, but by January of 2014 he was able to proceed. Glen was in a position to make a life-saving difference in someone’s life, but that wasn’t going to be an overnight effort. The process of donating bone marrow is complex, and no picnic for the donor either.
“They give you injections for five days leading up to it, and that causes bone pain and some other symptoms that aren’t very fun,” said Glen with a smile. “But you go into the hospital and sit in a chair and they have one needle in one arm and another in the other arm to create a kind of circuit. So the blood goes out and separates the components and the stem cells. You sit there for about eight hours and that was all.”
The process and the toll it takes on the body meant the Glen would have to miss three games for Penn State. Despite Glen’s value to his team, then an assistant captain, his teammates and coaches were entirely on board. With that support, Glen had little doubt he would be putting his athletic career on hold for a stranger.
“It’s not often that you get the opportunity to give someone else a second chance at life. For me it was a cool opportunity,” said Glen. “It’s a long shot that you ever get picked, so it wasn’t too difficult of a decision. It’s obviously tough when you have to miss some time with the team and we were playing some important games, but it’s not often that opportunity comes around.”
The rest of the hockey community got behind him as well, with the Penn State student section giving him a standing ovation at Penn State’s next home game, with Glen not in the lineup. Glen would miss three games before he got back in uniform, and then received another ovation when he returned to the ice, from fans and opponents alike.
Media outlets picked up the story of Glen’s effort to save a life, including Hockey Night in Canada. Glen did not expect any attention going into the process. While he appreciated the support, there was another kind of outreach that touched him just as strongly.
“The messages I got after from families that have gone through the experience was special for me” said Glen. “I’ll remember that for a long time.”
Now three years later, Glen still does not know the identity of the person he was able to help. That’s not what’s most important to him. Instead, the experience instilled a life lesson that can benefit everyone heading into this weekend.
“There are bigger things in life than hockey sometimes,” said Glen with a smile. “Anyone can do it. For me, it was a good opportunity to promote it but anyone can go in for two minutes and get their mouth swabbed. You never know, you might be able to help someone.”
“The real message is that anyone can help.”