Rather than give in to depression, one man chose to fight back in a way 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.
Alone and isolated, he admits he was at an “all-time low.”
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.
“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,” Tappe TODAY correspondent Carson Daly. “It gave me a sense of value to myself that I didn’t previously have.”
Several months later, Tappe got a call to let him know 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. The identity of the recipient didn’t matter to Tappe, the only thing he cared about was being 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.
By the time Tia Jensen was diagnosed with leukemia in 2018, she’d already been dealing with the effects of multiple sclerosis for two decades.
For this latest health hurdle, 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.
Ecstatic, Jensen wanted to reach out and thank her donor. Two years and many letters 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 on the set of The TODAY Show.
“I have been wanting to meet [him] for so long… I missed meeting Gage because of the pandemic. And I realized that because of Gage, there’s a lot of milestones that I won’t miss. I’m alive. I’m here. I’m going to get to be with my family, to be in the memories,” Jensen told TODAY’S Sheinelle Jones.
A grateful Jensen sees Tappe as a true role model. To honor him, and so that more patients might enjoy recovery stories with similar happy outcomes, Jensen has teamed up with Be the Match for an online donor registration event in hopes of inspiring others to follow his example of getting tested and stepping up to donate if and when they’re matched.
She has high hopes for the initiative.
“I think we forget too often how kind and big-hearted people are. And I am so grateful that [Gage] was willing to just be brave and take that step and share this kindness and marrow and give me a second chance at life,” she told Daly. “All this was done not knowing a thing about me, and I am just floored by the charity and the beauty in that.”