Rather than give in to depression, one man made a choice that not only changed his own life for the better—it gave a stranger he’d never met a second chance as well. Gage Tappe had recently moved to Idaho and had part-time custody of one of his kids. Looking for something to help him cope with his sadness and feel more connected, Tappe signed up as a donor with the national bone marrow registry.
Several months later, Tappe got the call that he’d been identified as a match. Tappe says since he was raised to help others in need, in any way big or small, he just needed to know where and when his marrow could be harvested for the transplant. The donation was made anonymously and the identity of the recipient didn’t matter to Tappe.
He said he just wanted to be able to have a meaningful and positive impact on someone’s life—but neither he nor the woman his bone marrow was going to could know just how life-changing his donation would turn out to be. When his recipient Tia Jensen was diagnosed with leukemia in 2018, she’d already been dealing with the effects of multiple sclerosis for two decades. She started a course of chemotherapy at the Seattle Cancer Center Alliance and added her name to the waiting list for a bone marrow donor.
After the successful transplant procedure, Jensen was stunned to learn that not only had her leukemia gone into remission, but thanks to her newly revitalized immune system, the multiple sclerosis she’d been battling for 20 years was in remission as well. Jensen was so ecstatic she wanted to thank her donor. Two years later Jensen was eventually given Tappe’s contact information and the two struck up a correspondence.
Though delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, they finally met in person. A grateful Jensen was able to tell Tappe she sees him as a true role model. Tappe said he was at an all time low when he made the decision. “I felt like my life wasn’t worth very much, so I hoped that I gave myself a chance to put some value to my own life by trying to help somebody extend theirs and continuing to stay on the list… and you have to be alive to do that. It gave me a sense of value to myself that I didn’t previously have” Tappe said.