One social network is helping raise the number of organ donors in North Carolina and across the country.
During the first week of May, Facebook began to allow users to list their organ donor status.
Although the option doesn't legally make Facebook members organ donors, it does help folks register with official organ donor organizations around the country.
Sharon Hirsch, executive director of Donate Life NC, a collaborative group of organizations that promote eye, organ and tissue donation, said that the new option has boosted those registering to donate organs.
"It (the Facebook option) has had a profound impact in the first two weeks," stated Hirsch " In fact, on the first day (May 1) we had a 3,000 percent increase over our daily average online registration rate."
The group, which usually averages only 18 registered donors a day, had over 1,400 individuals register on their site during the first two weeks the option was available on Facebook.
It should be noted that those that register at DMV's across the state are included in these numbers as well.
Old Fort resident Andy Bunch is a transplant recipient who is glad the new Facebook option is available. In 2004 Bunch received his transplant after only 22 days of waiting, the national average for someone waiting for an organ is 240 days.
"I think the donor status option is a good move, any communication that can encourage folks to become donors and talk about donation is great," said Bunch. "I'm sure the new option will help the raise the number of registered donors."
Those who have shared their donor status and registered with the agency have really given hope to those currently on a waiting list.
"This surge in registered donors provides hope to the more than 3,500 people in North Carolina who are currently on the waiting list for a transplant," Hirsch said. "One donor can save the lives of up to 8 people and enhance the lives of 50 people through cornea and tissue donation."
Bunch speaks to groups all over western North Carolina about his transplant. He hopes that folks will take the initiative and become donors to give others a second chance at life like he's had since his transplant.
"If I hadn't received my transplant, I wouldn't have had the last eight years with my family or gotten to know my two grandkids," stated Bunch.
Those interested in becoming organ donors should know that just because an individual is listed as an organ donor on their Facebook timeline doesn't mean you are an organ donor. To do so, users must take the step of registering at the DMV or on the online registry.
The social networking site does however make registration easier by giving direct links to state donor websites through the timeline feature.
While Hirsch and her colleges are happy that the new donor status is available on Facebook, they advise folks interested to follow more standard ways of becoming an organ donor.
"We encourage anyone interesting in doing so to go directly to donatelifenc.org to register or to learn more about being a donor," stated Hirsh. "We also encourage anyone who registers as a donor to share their decision with their family and friends on Facebook, but more importantly in person with your loved ones."
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