Facebook looks to increase organ donors in United States

FRESNO, Calif.

Starting today, Facebook users in the United States and the U.K. will be able to add that they're an organ donor to their timelines. A move Valley doctors, surgeons and transplant recipients are calling a "game changer."

"You're just sitting there waiting, trying to move forward with your life, but always on the back of your mind, you're thinking is today the day?" said Fresno transplant recipient, JePahl White.

White is a two-time kidney transplant recipient who knows first-hand what it's like to wait for word on whether doctors have found him a match.

"I started dialysis in September 1996 and I waited until June 2004 to receive my first transplant," he said.

That's eight years before the phone finally rang. It was a call, he said, that forever changed his life.

"It just became overwhelming at times," he added.

But long wait times may soon be reduced. That's because Facebook has partnered up with organizations like Donate Life America to make it easier for you to register as a organ and tissue donor and share the decision with the online universe.

"It's checking the box on steroids," said ABC News chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser. "This is a game changer. You take the power of Facebook, more than a billion people connected, having conversations… and you channel that towards something like this. That's unbelievable."

Right now more than 113,000 people are on organ transplant lists. 18 of them die every day. Dr. Besser believes by giving Facebook users the opportunity to designate themselves as donors, it would increase the pool of people willing to donate and speed up the process in saving someone's life.

"By checking that box and telling your friends and family you are an organ donor, that waiting list could go away," he said. "Think about all the people that could be touched by the act of generosity."

To register, go to your timeline, click to add a "life event" and choose "organ donor." If you're already an organ donor, you can choose which friends to share that information with. If you're not an organ donor, it will take you to a link to enroll with an official registry in your state. Steps transplant recipients like JePahl White encourage everyone to do.

"This is going to be encouraging for people right now," he said. "People waiting for a liver or heart transplant - their lives have just had an opportunity to be enhanced. Someone right now is clicking on Facebook and saying; yes, I want to be a donor and that's going to have a powerful effect across the United States."

The California Transplant Donor Network is already seeing an impact to its registry since Zuckerberg made the announcement. At mid-morning Monday, it had 75 people register to become a donor. By the same time Tuesday, 416 people joined the cause. That represents a 354% increase in less than a day, possibly an early indication that donor registration is going viral.

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