Social media and organ transplants

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Posted: Friday, November 16, 2012 4:17 pm | Updated: 4:42 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

About 6,000 people died waiting for an organ transplant last year, and tens of thousands more are on the waiting list right now.

How far would you go to help a friend? What about a stranger?

Thanks to social media, those in need are finding out, but is the trend only a fad?

Roxy Kurze's husband Jeffrey had a bad kidney. Like more than 90,000 Americans in need of a transplant, Jeffrey was put on the national waiting list and told he'd have to wait three to five years. "I don't want to lose my husband."

So one night, Roxy went on Facebook and posted about Jeffrey's ordeal. Within an hour of the post, Ricky Cisco responded. "What got me is that she said she needed a Type O."

The two met the next day, and Ricky volunteered to donate a kidney to Jeffrey. “She didn't know what to say at first."

The transplant was a success. Doctor Alan Koffron was part of the transplant team. He believes Roxy's desperate post sparked one of the first instances of social media leading to an organ transplant. "She started a whole phenomenon," says dr. Alan Koffron.

In fact, on May 1st, Facebook enabled an option that helps users register as donors and share their donor status with others. It seemed to be a hit. To date, Facebook officials tell us more than 300-thousand users have changed their status to organ donor. But can social media attract enough donors to shorten the long waiting list? Doctor Koffron believes it's possible. "The more people who know the dilemma and how to fix it, the more that could be fixed."

But other transplant experts have been quoted as saying the effort has not really "moved the needle." still, Facebook's effort continues and is expanding to users in more countries. "People from around the world have reached out to us."

Roxy, Jeff, and Ricky continue their own efforts to raise awareness about organ donation. Jeffrey can't thank his wife -- or donor -- enough. "So grateful. I love them both so much. They're family now. I got some new family members out of it."

Some of those who doubt Facebook's current effort will work believe it could work if the site kept the issue fresh in users' minds every day.

Transplant experts recommend real-time Facebook updates on the growing number of registered donors in every state, allowing donor registries to advertise for free on the site, and the development of an annual day to celebrate registered organ donors.

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