BERGENFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Bergenfield baseball coach Ed Mooney said “it broke me – big time” when he received word that the liver he desperately needed was available — and that it was from one of his former players, who died of injuries suffered in a car crash.
“How do you say ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ at the same time?” Mooney remembers saying.
The 52-year-old Mooney said Dan Glover, 24, was just the sort of person who would donate his organs.
“I’m not shocked Danny did something like this,” he said.
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Mooney spoke by telephone from his room at New York-Presbyterian Hospital on Saturday night, four days after he received Glover’s liver in a 12-hour transplant operation.
Glover, a star wrestler at Bergenfield High School and Pennsylvania’s Ursinus College, died Monday at a hospital in southeastern Pennsylvania, where he had been since the Jan. 21 accident. Earlier Saturday, he was eulogized at Mount Carmel R.C. Church in Tenafly as a compassionate and giving young man and a “Bergenfield hometown hero.”
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Mooney, a longtime Little League official in Bergenfield and junior-varsity baseball coach at Bergen Catholic High School, coached Glover in Little League more than a decade ago. Mooney also volunteered with Bergenfield High’s wrestling program when Glover was setting records as the school’s first wrestler to break the mark for 100 career wins.
Now, coach and athlete are linked in the most personal and profound of ways.
“This makes me want to live for more than one person — for me and for Danny, and all the people who can see that miracles can happen,” Mooney said.
It was indeed a miracle. The odds of the organ being a match were minuscule.
Mooney was diagnosed with cirrhosis five years ago and was placed on the waiting list for a liver last summer. He said he was far down the list and was told “I would get sicker as my life progressed” without a transplant.
Glover’s parents, Raymond and Karyn, met last Sunday with representatives of the Gift of Life Donor Program. They knew then that Dan’s death was imminent.
Dan Glover, a regular blood donor, had checked off the organ-donor box on his driver’s license. His parents mentioned they knew someone in their town, Mooney, who was ailing and needed a liver.
“We were told not to get our hopes up because the likelihood of compatibility was so slim,” Karyn Glover said Friday. “But the stars aligned.”
All states allow a person or family to direct an organ to a specific person needing one.
“What we do is check if the person is on a waiting list, if both individuals are compatible (body size and blood type) and if the surgeon taking care of the patient (needing the organ) thinks the organ is a match,” said Howard Nathan, president and CEO of Gift of Life, the organ and tissue procurement and transplant network for eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware.
Dan Glover and his former coach were indeed a match — right down to their type-A blood.
Nathan said less than 1 percent of the nearly 1,200 organ transplants his organization coordinated last year involved an organ directed to a person known to the donor or donor’s family.
If Glover and Mooney had not been a match, the liver “would have gone to someone in our region,” Nathan said.
Doctors also harvested Glover’s heart, lungs, pancreas, corneas, bone, ligaments and skin tissue, the Glovers said. Nathan said Friday that he could not discuss the destination of those organs and tissues.
In his remarks at Glover’s funeral Saturday morning, the Very Rev. Leonard J. Gilman told the hundreds of mourners that “50 or more people have found life through Danny.”
About 110,000 people in the United States, including 4,700 in New Jersey, are on organ and tissue waiting lists, according to the New Jersey Sharing Network, Gift of Life’s counterpart in this region.
Mooney said he knew that Glover, who worked at a Hershey, Pa., brewery, had been in a devastating accident. Glover’s 1998 Buick struck the rear of truck stopped on the Pennsylvania Turnpike during a snowstorm.
Mooney said Karyn Glover left him a phone message last Sunday to say that her son was not going to make it and that “Danny wants to give me the gift of life.” When Mooney called back, he reached Dan Glover’s sister, Kristian. She asked Mooney his blood type and cried when it was the same blood type as her brother.
Mooney said he could be out of the hospital this week and hopes to meet with the Glovers.
“I’m not sure I’m going to be able to hold back the tears when I see them,” he said. “There’ll be sorrow first, but it’s great that I got this liver. Then again, it came from a 24-year-old kid. I’ll give them as many hugs as possible.”
Mooney, a former recycling inspector for Prospect Park, has coached baseball for 31 years. He kept up with his former player and worked with him last year when Glover served as Bergenfield High’s assistant wrestling coach.
“Danny was up there with some of the best — but I loved all the kids I coached,” he said.
Mooney, a 1977 Bergenfield graduate, runs the borough Little League’s Junior/Senior League and kept on coaching while battling liver disease. A benefit in July raised more than $20,000 toward his medical expenses.
Now, he’s eager to get back to doing what he loves.
“I’ll be on the third base coach side this spring, waving them in,” he said.
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