Bone marrow donation saves a life

BY MICHELLE BURGER/Montana State News

Christian Lapp knew he would be serving his country when he joined the Marine Corps in March 2009, but Lapp had no idea he would be donating his bone marrow to save someone’s life.

Lapp, 26 and born and raised in Bozeman, joined the Marine Corps right out of high school.

“In high school, I was a horrifically bad student and my options were kind of limited. A couple schools wanted to give me scholarships for mountain biking. When it came time for me to choose, I realized (joining the marines) was that thing in the back of my head where since second grade. I was like, ‘I’m gonna go be a marine’,” said Lapp.

Many of Lapp’s family members joined the army, including two cousins and his uncle. Joining the military “was in my culture,” said Lapp.

Lapp’s uncle had the greatest influence on his choice to join the military. Lapp saw his uncle, who had a troubled upbringing, transform after joining the army and decided it was a dream of his as well. Around 10 years old is when he fell in love with this destiny.

“My uncle became my role model…. I saw this night and day difference in him,” said Lapp. This was the moment he knew he would join the military.

“It was my destiny to do it,” said Lapp.

After four years into Lapp’s eight-year contract with the Marine Corps, Lapp received a call about being a potential marrow donor for a patient suffering from a form of blood cancer.

Lapp refers to it as being “volun-told” by his commanding officer rather than being volunteered to join the Be the Match registry. Be the Match is a bone marrow registry that works to match potential donors to patients in need of marrow transplant.

Within four days of the initial call and a blood test, Lapp received word that he was a match for the 50-year-old male recipient.

Lapp was set to fly out of San Diego to Washington, D.C., for the actual donation and was able to bring his sister along to help him through the process.

Six months after the donation, Lapp received a call. The recipient of his donation had made a full recovery. Lapp describes the experience as earning a “badge of honor.”

The program that coincides with Be The Match in the military is called the C.W. Bill Young Program. Through this program, marines were added to the same registry as the Be The Match patrons.

Be The Match has an MSU chapter that thrives.

“When I found it on campus, it was just by accident and John Philpott (a marrow recipient) was there and he was just so energetic,” Lapp said.

“John invited me to a meeting for Be The Match and I kind of just fell into volunteering. It was something I was passionate about,” Lapp said.

Even though Lapp has only known about Be The Match on Campus student group for one month he has recently been appointed as the vice president of marketing.

“Our new vice president of marketing is Chris Lapp,” said Philpott at the year-end meeting for the MSU Be The Match chapter. Lapp also expressed the future he wants to see for the program.

As an ambassador for Subaru, “which basically translates to ‘someone who loves cars way too much’,” Lapp hopes to work in tandem with local car dealerships to put on Be The Match registry drives.

Plans have already been formulating as Lapp negotiates multiple drives at the Subaru and Volkswagen dealerships.

“I want everyone to at least stop by and get the basic information,” said Lapp who is hopeful to educate the students and community to the best of his ability about bone marrow transplant.

Now a senior studying business management at MSU, he hopes to continue registry drives into the summer months.

Lapp’s passion for cars has spread into the dream of one day making cars.

“I’ve had over 16 cars, and a majority of them were Subarus,” Lapp said about the number of vehicles he has owned over time.

In the end, Lapp has been and continues to be very passionate and goal orientated towards making his ambitions a reality. Through Be The Match Lapp plans on continuing his involvement in the chapter for the years to come.

– edited by Emily Schabacker

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