Social Media Helps Find Kidney Donors

Editor’s Note: Staff contributor Derrick Cruise works to actively raise awareness for both breast and prostate cancer. As a staff contributor, he writes about these and other bleeding edge health care topics for Medtopicwriter and the All Media Freelance, LLC family of websites. In his free time, he enjoys having fun with his family and writing for his own site

social media medicine organ donation

Facebook - Just what the doctor ordered?

Traditionally, people who need an organ have to wait until a matching donor passes away. The average wait time for patients receive an organ is three to five years, as reported by CBS Chicago. But for those who need a kidney transplant that can come from a living donor, there’s now a new option. Through social media, people around the country are finding willing and matching donors, and receiving transplants in far less time than they would from a traditional donor list.

A professor discovers the power of Facebook

Take the example of Indiana University East professor Jerry Wilde. According to the Indianapolis Star, in 2009, Wilde discovered that the donated kidney he received in 1990 had grown a large tumor. It had to be removed, which meant a dependence on dialysis. The dialysis treatments became too time consuming and difficult for the 49-year-old, and he began his search for a kidney donor.

Since kidneys can come from living donors, Wilde didn’t have to wait on a traditional donor list. But because he’d already had one transplant, his body had developed strong antibodies that made finding a matching donor difficult. He was able to find two willing donors who were also matches, but the medical team he was working with determined that neither potential donor was healthy enough to donate a kidney. Discouraged, Wilde turned to Facebook—and it was with a Facebook post that the campaign to save Wilde’s life began.

A potential donor “likes” her match

Leah Hostalet, a friend and former student, took up the cause and created the “Find a Kidney for Jerry” page on Facebook. Through the page, Wilde connected with his kidney donor, Becky Melton. The two were strangers before they connected via social media, but today they’re lifelong friends and share a connection that can only come from offering a part of yourself to save someone else’s life. The transplant, which occurred on February 24th of this year, was successful; doctors now expect Wilde to have a full recovery.

But Wilde’s success story is no longer a rare one: using social media to recruit donors is a growing trend. People facing the need for a transplant have begun to realize that the traditional route of getting a donor is often slow and difficult to endure. When family and friends don’t yield a matching donor, social media can broadcast a patient’s need across the globe.

social media medicine

Save a life with social media.

There’s no doubt that social media is changing the way the world interacts. Stories like Jerry Wilde’s show that social media can do more than help former classmates and coworkers find each other online. The power of social media is changing the world of medicine, and more people now believe that it’s a transformation that can help save lives. The next time you log on to Facebook, you could stumble across the opportunity to help someone have a long and healthy life.

Images credits: inkeddigital dot com, 425magazine dot com

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  1. #1 by mariadorfner on March 31, 2012 - 9:41 PM

    Hi Samantha, Thanks for following my blog, MEDCrunch. Interesting post on people using social media for medical reasons. You should take a look at The Flood Sisters Kidney Foundation of America. I serve on their board, but they were the first ones to go outside traditional means to find a kidney for their Dad. Three sisters placed an ad on Craig’s list, and they found a match. That inspired them to form the foundation to help other people in similar situations. One of the first things they did was to get an attorney to help them legally screen potential candidates, as they suprisingly got inundated with responses from their on-line ad. So, safety is an important factor to keep in mind. Other than that, it’s a wonderful gift of life when you can help someone.

    • #2 by Samantha Gluck on March 31, 2012 - 10:32 PM

      Hi Marla,

      I can’t believe I didn’t know about MEDCrunch. I thought I followed all the cutting edge med blog sites out there. I’m so glad you pinged one of my stories. That’s how I found your site.

      That is so awesome that you serve on the Flood Sisters board. I will take a look at it for sure. You’re right (and thank you for bringing it up) that safety should take a top spot when querying the general public via social media platforms and other channels like Craig’s List. I bet they did indeed get inundated with a myriad of responses from their initial ad. Craig’s list has such a dubious reputation due to some of the high profile news stories involving violent crime and their classified ad system. But it just goes to show you, if done right it’s a safe and viable way to find help for many different needs. Like anything else, when used improperly, or without due prudence, it can become a dangerous and detrimental thing rather than a tool for hope.

      I’m branding, positioning, producing and managing the launch of a national celebrity-studded fund raising campaign called Scars R Sexy. My client, and the mastermind of this inspiring endeavor, and I are in the process of vetting charity organizations to benefit from the funds raised during the campaign. Amy received a liver transplant 19 years ago and has used the challenges she faced (and many she still faces) to change the world for the better and to bring hope to others. Perhaps Flood Sisters Kidney Foundation would have an interest in becoming involved. Let me know if you’d like to know more.

      XO Samantha

  2. #3 by Alice Ackerman on April 1, 2012 - 12:37 PM

    Samantha, Very powerful stuff. So many of my colleagues question the value of my involvement in social media–especially Twitter and my blog. This is a great way to show how social media can help individuals as well as populations. Thanks for keeping us informed!

    • #4 by Samantha Gluck on April 1, 2012 - 1:08 PM


      So very nice to see you here and to read your encouraging thoughts on my site. I know so many people in the medical profession, since we specialize in the health care industry over at All Media Freelance and LoneSpark. I’ve found two kinds of mindsets: those that reject the technological revolution taking place in medicine (for whatever reason) and those that embrace it with all the passion they can possibly muster.

      There’s really no in-between, is there? I hold the medical profession in great esteem and am concerned that those who do not establish themselves in some authentic way online will quickly become irrelevant when they still have so much to offer.

      People are hungry to engage in meaningful and appropriate ways with their physicians and other health care professionals outside the office environment. Social media and physician blogs provide the perfect platforms for this. It empowers both patient and physician in ways unimaginable even two years ago.

  3. #5 by Ralma on April 2, 2012 - 4:26 AM

    I run across your blog and was reading about VBAC here in Houston. I could not comment on the actual posting for some reason but, is it possible to share the information about Drs here in Houston who do VBACs with me? It’s so frustrating trying to find any here. Calls have been futile so far :(

    ~ Ralma

  4. #6 by DS on April 2, 2012 - 1:11 PM

    You Rock!!!

    • #7 by Samantha Gluck on April 2, 2012 - 2:02 PM

      Thanks, DS. Derrick really outdid himself with this story. Very relevant. Very bleeding edge.

  5. #8 by Derrick Cruise on April 10, 2012 - 5:18 PM

    Much appreciated everyone! A special thanks to Samantha for allowing me to share this post with all of you on MTW!

    • #9 by Samantha Gluck on April 11, 2012 - 2:03 AM

      Thanks for your inspiring post, Derrick!

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