Organ Donation, Facebook become Friends

Photo
Facebook added a new feature that allows users to update their organ donor status on Timeline

Story and Photos by Lorena Carmona

Scott Stanley wouldn’t be alive today if he didn’t receive the most precious gift seven years ago, a heart. He owes his life to someone he can never meet.

Stanley was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It is a genetic heart disorder that causes the heart to become thick and rigid, making it unable to pump blood.

He was a 37-year-old man with a death sentence. He needed a transplant.

“My body was shutting down,” Stanley said. “I was there but wasn’t really there.”

Ring. Ring. Ring. The phone call came. On June 14, 2005, Stanley received a heart.

Stanley was a lucky one, but more than 114,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant.


Scott Stanley received a heart seven-years-ago. “Become a donor, people need it,” he said.

Facebook and organ donation have become friends on the World Wide Web. The social media giant rolled out the option for users to post their organ donor status on their Facebook Timeline. But users must do more than put an organ donor status, a person must register. Without proper registration, a Facebook status has no legal weight behind it. A Facebook status only publicizes, not legalizes your desire to donate organs.

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook, said in an interview with Good Morning America that he has seen how people used social media with disasters such as Japan’s Tsunami and the tornado in Joplin, Mo.

“Can we do anything that will solve other types of issues like all of the people who need organ donations,” he said. The idea became real.

May 1 marked the day the new feature became available to its more than 900 million users. It gives users the option to go to their Life Events and, under Health and Wellness, add their organ donor status. For the people who want to be donors but haven’t officially registered, Facebook gives Timeline users the option of going to the appropriate link to become a donor.

Facebook has had a tremendous impact in the number of online donor registers. According to a Donate Life America news release, 46 donor registries reported a total of 33,406 online donor designations in the first six days of the Facebook initiative. The first two days of May showed the most dramatic figures with 24,367 enrollments nationally. In Nebraska, the total online donor designation was 525, which is a 1,458 percent increase of the average, according to the release.

“It is very interesting that we do all we can to increase awareness and something so simple as putting it on Facebook has had a profound effect,” said Andrea Eischen, public relations coordinator for the Nebraska Organ Recovery System (NORS), adding nothing has been more successful than this initiative.

Rachel White was just one of the many people who changed their organ donor status on Facebook. The Lincoln resident said she changed her donor status when she saw media reports about the new feature.

“I went and did it right away,” the 30-year-old said.

She said she signed up to be an organ donor when she was 16 at the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles, but she wanted to publicize her decision she made all those years ago.

“I thought it was the right thing to do,” she said. “It will make people more aware.”

White said she became an organ donor because it will help save other people’s lives.

“People continue to sign up for Facebook every single day,” she said. “It will make people more curious.”

White said she knows of a family who has a small child waiting on a heart and lung transplant. Maybe the child will be able to get a transplant if more people signed up.

Facebook founder Zuckerberg said, in the Good Morning America interview, even if it doesn’t touch everyone he hopes that it can make a real impact.

Stanley, the heart transplant recipient, said he doesn’t understand why more people don’t sign up. He said he was an organ donor before his transplant and still is. His two sons also are organ donors.

“It is just a couple of clicks away,” Stanley said.

Eighteen people die each day because of a shortage of organs, according to organdonor.gov.

“There are people who can use the gift,” Stanley said. “Plus, you can’t use them when you’re dead.”

Stanley said he has a friend who is waiting for a heart and kidney transplant. He has received neither.

“But with Facebook, it brings him that much closer,” he said.

Having Facebook and organ donation come together online opens discussions, said Becky Jackson, an education coordinator for Donate Life.

“It is like a status update,” Jackson said. “You are sharing what you are doing and believing in.”

How to sign up to become an organ donor