Organ Donation and the Power of Social Media

I am a weeper.  I’ve admitted it before.  This isn’t the first time.

All summer long I have been glued to my television taking in one particular show each Thursday night – ABC’s Boston Medical – and each time, I end up weeping.  Last Thursday, August 12th, was the final episode of the summer and it was a good one.  So good, in fact, that I think I cried for the entire episode.  Let me give you a bit of background.

Boston is home to some of the world’s greatest hospitals – Massachusett’s General, Brigham & Women’s, and Children’s Hospital Boston.  For an unprecedented amount of time, all three allowed ABC’s cameras in to document the real deal, the real lives behind the medical staff they employ and the stories of the real patients they cared for and treated. 

As a series, I’d have to say it was one of THE BEST shows I have ever seen.  It was so well done and so real.  But, the very last episode left a mark on my heart & in my soul.  It was so moving, so touching, so amazing.  Most episodes are a combination of cases and patients.  This one concentrated on only two cases, two patients, two families, and how they all connected together through organ donation.  I will never forget this story.

Joseph, a man with two young sons married to a beautiful & loving wife had been on the list for a heart transplant for some time.  When the call finally came, the transplant took place but for whatever reason, his body gave out and he passed away.  Enter James, a Vietnam Veteran and a loving wonderful man with a wife & daughter who loses almost all of his facial features through a freak accident a few years ago (he fell on the third rail at a subway station).  Joseph was an organ donor but when he signed up for it, I don’t think he or his family had planned to donate his face.  The decision they make as a family helps another man & his family heal and resume living a normal life while doing the same for their own family.

I can’t even begin to explain the emotions I felt watching this show.  I am an organ donor and yes, I admit, I’ve never thought of that either…you know…giving my face away.  But, you know what – after seeing their story, after seeing the lives that were touched, after feeling so incredibly grateful for the gift of life, of my own good health, if something ever did happen to me, I’d want to help someone else in whatever way I could. 

What does this have to do with social media?  Well, yesterday I “liked” the fan page “The Match Story” on Facebook, today I was followed on Twitter by the passionate widow of the man who’s face was given away (and whom I promptly followed back).  Susan has a book coming out in less than two months, appropriately entitled, The Match Story.  In it will be the heart & soul, the facts, the story behind the 50 some-odd minutes we got through ABC’s hit show…and I can’t wait to read it.

What Susan is doing through her testimony and by engaging in the social medium, she is reaching out to others.  I have no doubt she is encouraging more people to become organ donors, more families facing difficult decisions that there is hope, that there is something good that can come from it.  Susan & her family are an inspiration to so many.  I don’t know if they really realize how much but perhaps some of you can become followers & fans of hers and experience the amazing things that will come of it.  The story, the opportunity to spread the word of it, is an inspiration.  I hope you’ll be one.

One final note, we are here on this planet not for our own gain but to make a difference.  Rick Warren the author of The Purpose Driven Life says,

It’s not about me.

Plain and simple.  It’s not.  When we give of ourselves, when we take the time to make a difference to one person, a group of people, heck…even a small country, we are changing the world.  We are doing the right thing.  That’s what matters.  All the money, the fame, the possessions in the world, don’t make a bit of difference.  It’s what we do with what we’ve been given that matters.

I encourage you to follow Susan as her story unfolds on the written page and at the same time, I pray that you will find a way & time to make that difference.  Whether you become an organ donor, give 3 hours a week to a local homeless shelter, host a party raising money for donations for a worthy cause, give to your church, mentor a child, whatever you do, it will make that difference for whom you are doing it for and yourself.  That I promise you.

Susan…my hat’s off to you.  All the best in this quest to build awareness, to tell your story, to make your difference in this world.  God Bless you!

Oh and to the rest of you…if you haven’t seen that episode of Boston Medical & you choose to watch it, be sure to have a whole box of Kleenex available.  You’re going to need it.

(Image courtesy of: Fair Transplant (dot) org)

8 Responses to “Organ Donation and the Power of Social Media”
  1. Stacy says:

    I haven’t seen the show, but can only imagine how touching it was. For many years I have had the organ donor sticker on my driver’s license, wanting to help another individual(s) should something happen to me.

    Fast forward to now and my mom, age 63, is diabetic on dialysis three times a week. I cannot be a donor to her because I don’t have the same blood type, but I have been looking into a paired kidney donation where I would donate a kidney to a recipient that matches and that recipient would then have a donor that matches my mother. My mom is very hesitant to have me be a kidney donor on her behalf – at age 43 she is concerned that I may need that kidney. We continue to discuss and I continue to share that this is something that I want to do so that I have the mother I grew up with back.

    While my mother has been tested and is on a transplant list, the doctors can’t seem to tell her where she is on the list. One doctor even told her that there isn’t really a “list.”

    Does anyone have suggestions on how to navigate getting on a kidney transplant list or lists, and how to understand the process?

    • lasullivan says:

      Hi, Stacy. Thank you for reading and for your comments. 🙂

      I have a friend from college who was in need of a kidney transplant many years ago. I will ping him & ask him to respond to you here..or at the very least, get the answer from him. I’ll respond as soon as I can.

      In the meantime, I will add both your mom and you to my prayers. May God continue to bless you both.

    • Gene Hayes says:

      Hi Stacy, I am Lisa Sullivan’s friend from college Gene. First off there is a list. The list may be utilized slightly differently depending on where she is from. There are several criteria which is used to determine a persons placement on the list. The strongest being medical need. A patients condition. Because there is replacement therapy for the kidney(Dialysis) the criteria is different than that for say a heart or lungs. There are a lot of other criteria which should have been discussed when making the decision when deciding of going to transplant. I think the best way to get a better Idea of the process is to contact the national kidney foundation. or their local/regional organ bank.. up here its the New England Organ Bank. At the end of the day the biggest factor is the availability of organs themselves. Please feel free to contact me with any follow up questions. Gene

  2. Dearest Lisa:

    You are wonderful. G-d bless you. Thanks for picking this up. There are 300 soldiers from the Iraqi and Afghanistan battlefields who need facial transplant surgery. The Brigham recently received a Dept. of Defense grant to perform more facial transplants. We need facial donors, desperately. Please spread the word. Also, on August 10th, the Brigham announced they are now able to perform hand transplant surgery for wounded warriors who have lost limbs. My heroes, Dr Bo Pomahac and team, stand ready. A world of hope is open. Pass it on. Sue

    • lasullivan says:

      Susan…oh you are so welcome! I will certainly spread the word about these soldiers. Face transplants for those that sacrificed for our freedoms, that’s a need that I believe can be met. I’ll get my network of contacts to help as well. Keep doing what you’re doing. It IS making a difference.

      Thank YOU for reading and for your kind words. God Bless YOU as well. 🙂

  3. Brian says:

    Excellent post Lisa! Our team manages the social media initiatives for Susan Helfgot and The Match Story and we’re really proud to be working toward such a great cause!

    Thanks for the shoutout – it’s folks like you who make a big difference for organ donation through thoughtful posts like this!



    Brian Spracklen
    VP of Operations
    Boom Media Inc.
    San Diego, CA

    • lasullivan says:

      Brian…your team is doing a GREAT job. As a social media specialist myself, it’s really important that the initiatives I become a part of have a positive impact on the lives of others. It’s nice to see Boom Media engaging in this way. Keep doing it and doing it well, and you’ll continue to be successful. Kudos to you all!

      Thanks for the reading and for the comment! 🙂

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