Bone Marrow Recipient Meets Donor Years Later on Live TV

A woman needed a bone marrow transplant to save her life, and through helping others, her donor saved his life from depression at the same time.

Tia Jensen was diagnosed with leukemia in 2018 after she began noticing bruises on her body. She had already been living with multiple sclerosis for 20 years and admitted that while she was “used to being frustrated or disappointed with (her) body,” the diagnosis was a surprise, according to TODAY.

“I was sad, but it was just another thing I was going to have to face,”said Jensen. She began treatment with chemotherapy at the Seattle Cancer Center Alliance, but she also needed a bone marrow transplant. She joined the list and hoped she would get the news that she had been matched.

Meanwhile, in Idaho, Gage Tappe was struggling with depression and at an “all-time low” after moving to a brand new state and having partial custody of one of his children. He joined the national bone marrow donor program, and found out months later that he had been matched with Jensen. Tappe said that he did not even hesitate. “It’s how I was raised,” Tappe said. “Help people when they need help. If you can help in a big way or a small way, doesn’t matter. Do what you can, and that’s it.”

Just months after being matched, Jensen received the lifesaving bone marrow transplant that she desperately needed. This caused both her leukemia and multiple sclerosis to go into remission, and Tappe said that helping save someone else’s life aided his own depression.

“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 explained. “And I can’t (be on the list) if I’m in the throes of depression or not around … It gave me a sense of value to myself that I didn’t previously have.”

Jensen wrote numerous letters to her anonymous donor, and received an email with his information two years later. 

“I was screaming, running through the house,” Jensen recalled. “‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh. I have my donor information!’ … I think we forget too often how kind and big-hearted people are. And I am so grateful that my donor was willing to just be brave and take that step and share this kindness and marrow and give me a second chance at life. All this was done not knowing a thing about me, and I am just floored by the charity and the beauty in that.”

The pair finally met in person on The Today Show, and, to honor Tappe’s donation, Jensen and Be the Match put together an online registry event to encourage other potential donors to sign up.

“I’m just grateful and happy that you’re here,” said Tappe.

“You inspired me. You did such an amazing thing for me and my family and I wanted to honor you,” said Jensen. “Hopefully we can save more lives.”

Image source: TODAY