- (Photo: Reuters / Thierry Roge)
Facebook has been accused of being everything from a time-waster to an invader of privacy, but the world's largest social network is also saving lives.
The use of social media to find people willing to donate a kidney to someone in need is on the rise. Over the past three years, several people have had their lives saved simply by creating a Facebook page, according to April Paschke, a spokeswoman for the United Network for Organ Sharing, a private nonprofit that manages the nation's organ transplant system for the federal government.
"We see more and more people matched up by social media," Brown told The Associated Press. "It's an extension of the way we communicate. Before we found the Internet, people found other ways: through a church bulletin, word of mouth or an advertisement, even."
However, unlike a church bulletin or word of mouth, social media allows people to reach a large amount of people in any geographic area – and for many people, it has worked.
In Seattle, Damon Brown, a 38-year-old father of two, recently found a kidney on Facebook. After setting up a page named "Damon Kidney," friends and relatives sent the link to people they knew and eventually found a donor who happened to be an old friend of Brown's wife – but that is not why the woman decided to go through with the donation.
Jacqueline Ryall, 45, told the AP she wanted to give something back because of all the good health she has had, as well as help two kids hold on to their father.
"The real reason I'm doing this is he's got kids and he's a good guy," she said. "My life is in a good place. I've been given lots and I have a responsibility to give back."
Early last year, a Michigan man in need of a kidney also found a donor on Facebook. Jeff Kurze, 35, needed a new kidney after he suffered a stroke and was on dialysis. Doctors told him it could take up to 5 years to find a matching donor on the kidney waiting list. That's when Kurze's wife, Roxy, took to Facebook.
"Wishing a kidney would fall out of the sky so my husband can stop suffering," Roxy, a 30-year-old web designer, wrote on her Facebook wall. "So if anyone knows of a live donor with type O blood, PLEASE let me know."
Roxy would later get a private message from Ricky Cisco, a 25-year-old comedian who said he would be willing to donate his kidney to her husband. The message came as a surprise to Roxy because, other than meeting each other once through work, they did not know each other, ABC News reported.
"We never even liked each other's posts," Roxy said.
However, not everyone who starts a kidney donor page on Facebook gets what they need – at least not yet. Currently, there are several people looking for kidneys, including Ohio resident Randy Wright, who set up Kidney for Randy Wright, Donate Life on Facebook in Jan. 2011, but has yet to find a donor.
Wright is also offering an "exchange." On his page, he says needs an " 'O' kidney [and] will do paired exchange, brother is an 'A'."
According to the Living Kidney Donors Network, a network that helps match donors with recipients, the number of people on waiting lists to receive kidneys has doubled over the last 10 years to 90,000. Currently, people wait as long as five years and the number of donors has been decreasing.
The National Kidney Foundation states that each day, "[Eighteen] people die while waiting for a transplant of a vital organ, such as a heart, liver, kidney, pancreas, lung or bone marrow."