People Are Using Social Media To Find Organ Donors

Organ Donors Through Social Media

Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram – these are all names of popular social media websites. Internet social media came into existence in 1997 with the website Six Degrees, which allowed users to upload a profile and make friends with other users. Blogging sites arrived soon after in 1999. Internet social media became the behemoth it is today around 2006 when Facebook and Twitter became available to everyone around the world, instead of being accessible only by a specific crowd. 

As of July 2015, there are 7.3 billion people in the world. Out of those 7.3 billion, 2.3 billion are active social media users. Recently, people on social media have been turning to each other for help with funding various endeavors. Known as crowdfunding, websites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and YouCaring offer a safe way for people to ask for money on social media. These crowdfunding requests can be linked to your Facebook, Twitter, or other social media account in order to reach a large amount of people in a short amount of time. Requesting money through these websites help create legitimacy around your project. People are crowd funding everything from new tabletop games to independent films to college tuition.

But what about finding organ donors through social media?

One man decided to use Facebook to find himself a kidney donor. Stu Himmelstein, MD, FACP, an internist from Delray Beach, FL, and an active member in his local medical community, suffers from chronic kidney disease from tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). As his condition rapidly declined, it was clear he would need a kidney donor. According to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration’s Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), there are 99,319 people on the waiting list for a kidney. Patients can wait anywhere from 30 days to 5 years for their necessary organ, depending on blood type and availability.

So Stu turned to Facebook. Stu created a Facebook page titled, “New Kidney for Stu”. He had read about the success of another man finding a kidney donor through Facebook, and given the grim statistics about the donor waiting list, he decided to take matters into his own hands. 

It turns out Stu isn’t alone. Many people in need of organ donations turn to Facebook to find a donor. So many, in fact, that in October of 2011, a team of researchers at Loyola University Medical Center started tracking how Facebook was being used as a tool to connect potential donors to recipients. They studied 91 Facebook pages looking for donors, specifically kidneys. 

In May of 2012, Facebook created a way for users to share their donor status with friends, and created a way to make their status official on state DMV websites. This led to a 21-fold increase in organ donors in a single day. 

Unfortunately, it seems like this option is not available anymore, perhaps due to the fact that some people in 3rd world countries were offering to sell their organs, which is illegal. However, with the number of people seeking out organs via social media, and the dramatic increase in donors due to savvy social media marketing, it seems like there could be a future for healthcare requests through social media.

Kari Cowell
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