How transplant patients are turning to Facebook to appeal for organ donors
One appeal site for a young child encouraged more than 600 people to be tested as potential donorsOnly 5 per cent of appeal sites mention medical risks
11:14 GMT, 24 May 2012
Transplant patients are turning to social networks in ever greater numbers in their desperate search for organs – and appear to be getting results.
Researchers examined nearly 100 Facebook pages set up to find living kidney donors for patients aged from two to 69.
The team from Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago found that such pages were surprisingly successful.
Online plea: Ricky Cisco (right) donated a kidney to a Facebook friend he hardly knew after reading about the plight of Roxy and Jeff Kurze (left)
One in eight page subjects reported receiving a kidney transplant while nearly a third (30 per cent) said potential donors had stepped forward to see if they were compatible. One appeal site for a young child encouraged more than 600 people to be tested as potential donors.
Patients who were successful in soliciting people to be tested for donation were more likely to be white and have more than 50 posts by others.
While 37 per cent of the pages were set up by the patient themselves, 31 per cent were created by their children and 32 per cent by other family or friends.
Some pages simply asked people to donate, without providing any other information. However, other pages provided great detail about the patients including medical histories, family photos and emotional accounts.
Jeff Kurze, from Michigan, was one such patient. He suffered kidney failure following a stroke in 2010 and doctors said the waiting list was five-years long.
His wife Roxy turned to Facebook and posted: ‘Wishing a kidney would fall out of the sky so my husband can stop suffering. So if anyone knows of a live donor with type O blood, PLEASE let me know.'
Then she received a message from Ricky Cisco, 25, a Facebook friend who she had only met once through work.
Mr Cisco did not even know her husband by name, but said he wanted to help.
Effective: Appeal pages, like that set up by Jeff and Roxy Kurze, are very effective at encouraging donors to step forward
He said: ‘I always wanted to be a hero, but I’m not very strong. I can’t lift anything, I can’t save people in traditional ways. I do have an extra kidney.’
He was found to be a match and in March 2011 the two men went into hospital in Detroit for the transplant operation, which was a success.
Mr Kurze said: ‘I feel like it was fate and destiny. I don’t know how we can ever repay him. I just love him I guess.’
Mr Cisco received more than $4,000 in donations to pay his bills during his six-week recovery period from people touched by his kindness
In the latest study, reported at a meeting of the National Kidney Foundation, the scientists said they were concerned that the drawbacks of donating were rarely highlighted.
Only five per cent of pages mentioned any medical risks while just 11 per cent mentioned associated costs.
Study author Dr Alexander Chang, said: 'Use of social media could be an effective way to solicit kidney donation, but more study is needed to determine how to do this safely and with enough knowledge to make informed decisions.'
The researchers also found that three percent of the pages received offers to sell kidneys, mostly from people in Third World countries. Would-be donors typically asked for $30,000 to $40,000. However, selling organs is illegal.
The researchers began their study in October 2011. They noted that on May 1, 2012, Facebook announced an organ donation initiative that allows users to post their organ donation status, letting friends know that they have signed up with their state registry to donate their organs after they die.