PITTSBURGH, June 13, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Donate Life America and UPMC will participate in today's White House Organ Summit, where they will present a first-of-its-kind online community aimed at increasing awareness for living donation — a critical effort to reduce waiting lists and save lives.
The Living Donor Transplant Facebook page is the first step in creating a social space for patients who have received or are waiting for an organ, living donors, prospective donors, and the public to connect, share stories, and learn more about the option of living donation. The goal of the partnership is to harness the power of social media to reduce the pediatric and adult liver and kidney waiting lists, eradicate pediatric waiting list deaths, and improve access to transplants nationally.
"With more than 115,000 Americans waiting for a kidney or liver transplant, it is vital people know about living donation as an option," said David Fleming, president and chief executive officer of Donate Life America, a nonprofit alliance of national organizations and state teams committed to increasing donation. "Living donation offers a key opportunity to save more lives, and we are honored that the White House has chosen to recognize Donate Life America and UPMC's efforts to build a national living donation community through the power of social media."
Today, more than 120,000 people are in need of a lifesaving organ transplant including liver, kidney and other organs – but last year, there were only 9,000 deceased donors and 6,000 living donors in the U.S. More than 4,000 people died in 2015 waiting for a new kidney, and 3,600 were taken off the waiting list because they became too sick for a transplant. Although 90 percent of Americans say they support organ donation, only 52 percent are registered donors, and even fewer understand the benefits of kidney and liver transplants from living donors.
"The transplant field has come a long way over the last 20 years, but the organ shortage has gotten worse," said Abhinav Humar, M.D., UPMC's chief of transplantation. "One of the main reasons living donor transplants haven't taken off is because of a lack of information about the process, what it involves and who can be candidates. This initiative uses social media as a way to disseminate living donor transplant information to more people, which could help alleviate the organ shortage and save countless lives."
Donya McCoy knows all too well the power of an individual's social media community and network when it comes to finding a donor.
At 3 years old, her daughter Kennedy was diagnosed with a rare metabolic disorder, and doctors believed a liver transplant could correct some of the factors contributing to the disease. Kennedy didn't have a very good chance at securing a deceased donor liver, and living-donor liver transplant was her best option. Due to her rare condition, the donor had to be unrelated.
After researching how the living donor transplant process worked on several websites, Ms. McCoy posted what she called the "request of a lifetime" on her Facebook page in July 2014 looking for anyone with O positive blood willing to donate 25 percent of his or her liver to save her daughter's life.
Firefighter Mike Thompson, a former classmate, messaged her back and wanted to help. A successful living donor transplant later took place at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
Today, Mr. Thompson and Kennedy are doing well.
In addition to featuring educational content about living donation, including videos from experts, articles and patient stories, the Living Donor Transplant Facebook page welcomes stories from patients, families and others whose lives have been affected by transplantation.
The White House Organ Summit will take place today at 10:30 a.m. EDT, and will be webcast live at www.whitehouse.gov/live. During the Summit, the Administration and private entities will announce a new set of actions to improve outcomes for individuals waiting for organ transplants and improve support for living donors.
A world-renowned health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. It provides more than $888 million a year in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region's most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates 60,000 employees, more than 20 hospitals, more than 500 doctors' offices and outpatient sites, and a more than 2.9 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical and behavioral health services insurer in western Pennsylvania. Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC ranks No. 13 in the prestigious U.S. News & World Report annual Honor Roll of America's Best Hospitals. UPMC Enterprises functions as the innovation and commercialization arm of UPMC while UPMC International provides hands-on health care and management services with partners in 12 countries on four continents. For more information, go to UPMC.com.
About Donate Life America
Donate Life America is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit alliance of national organizations and Donate Life State Teams across the United States committed to increasing the number of donated organs, eyes and tissue available to save and heal lives. Donate Life America manages and promotes the national brand for donation, Donate LifeSM; manages the National Donate Life Registry, RegisterMe.org; develops and executes effective multi-media donor education programs; motivates the American public to register now as organ, eye and tissue donors; and assists Donate Life State Teams and national partners in facilitating high-performing donor registries. For more information, please visit DonateLife.net.