When West Chester head coach Ginny Martino is asked to describe her star player Tori Dugan the first word that comes to her mind is always “selfless.”
The junior attack may lead the Golden Rams with 47 goals, but Dugan also tops the team with 36 assists. Her selflessness is a key reason why WCU has advanced to the NCAA Division II semifinals for the third consecutive year, and ninth time in the last 11 seasons.
But Dugan’s selfless acts go way beyond the lacrosse field. Last fall, Dugan was identified as a potential match for someone in need of a bone marrow transplant and ended up saving a life.
A native of West Chester, Pa., had registered with the National Bone Marrow program at the campus student union through a drive organized by WCU head football coach Bill Zwaan and his team. WCU’s “Be the Match. Be the One to Save a Life” annual drive is the part of larger effort by Villanova football coach Andy Talley has spearheaded since 1992 to get football teams involved in registry drives.
A couple of friends from the Golden Rams’ football team asked Dugan to sign up for the registry by filling out some paperwork and having DNA samples extracted from her mouth with cotton swabs.
The entire process took 10 minutes.
The chances of a match occurring are rare. There are approximately 20 million people worldwide registered as potential marrow donors, but there are only about 250 matches found each year, making it a 1-in-80,000 chance that a registered donor will be a match.
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However, a few short months after registering, Dugan was contacted as a potential match for 50-year-old man who was suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. There was no hesitation in Dugan’s decision to help. More thorough blood tests confirmed she was a positive match for the patient, and she underwent a physical and an information session about bone marrow donation. Five days prior to having the procedure done on Nov. 29 at Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia, she took two shots each day to build her white blood cell count.
“The process was very easy,” Dugan said. “It was a personal stem cell donation. I went to the hospital in the morning, and the process took about six hours. I was in a bed and a needle in both arms and they would take the platelets they needed. I was awake the whole time and could eat and watch TV. I just had to sit still.”
“I was impressed she considered, let alone going through with it because of the time commitment and fears that go with it,” Martino said. “She didn’t give it a second thought. She knew someone needed help and was willing to do it. It was a very selfless thing to do and she is definitely one of those kids who is a born leader. She shows by example on and off the field.”
While Dugan could not play lacrosse for four weeks, the timing of the procedure was perfect. She only missed one individual workout, and was able to get back on the field with the team when spring practice started after the semester break.
The exact identity of the patient is unknown to Dugan, but she does know that a month after the donation he was out of the hospital and doing better. She should receive another update at the six-month mark. Dugan can also be contacted again for another donation to this patient. She will be placed back in the general registry after a year of the first donation, and can potentially be a match for other patients.
“I think everybody should at least be on the registry, and if you are matched up, you still have a choice to be a donor,” Dugan said. “I told my family and teammates to get on the registry. It’s awesome. You don’t get to see firsthand what effect you’re having on someone else’s life, but you can feel it that you’re doing something good for somebody.”
The odds of Dugan being a positive match for a patient were extremely slim, but the chances of her helping West Chester claim its first NCAA title since 2008 are now down to 1-in-4 entering this week’s semifinals.
The Golden Rams lost Limestone in a one-goal game in last year’s NCAA semifinals, but Martino says the squad that will be playing Rollins College on Thursday is a completely different team.
“They push themselves to try different things,” Martino said. “They are throwing it behind the back shots, and using bounce passes on shots … they have fun playing the game. Their creativity has really helped our attack with how many ways they can score and approach the goal. They spread it around and try different things … there are so many options and outlets for our attack with seven players that really enjoy scoring. It is much more balanced than in past seasons.”
Dugan, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Player of the Year, ranks 15th in the nation with 83 points, and is fifth with 6.78 draw controls per game.
“She is a very smart and seasoned player,” Martino said. “She has a presence out there. She speaks up and has great things to say. Kids gravitate towards her and try to do what she does.”
Dugan is only in her second season at West Chester after transferring from Louisville following her freshman year. She had been recruited by Martino, but wanted to experience living away from home.
“I think being away, and then coming home makes it that much better,” Dugan said. “I got to experience a different place than where I grew up, and now that I’m back I’m very happy at West Chester.”
West Chester will meet Rollins on May 17 at 11 a.m. at Owsley B. Frazier Stadium in Louisville, Ky. The Division II Women’s Lacrosse Championship is part of the NCAA Division II Spring Festival being hosted by Bellarmine University and the Greater Louisville Sports Commission.