BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Demand for organs is surging in Maryland and across the country. Now, Facebook is connecting donors with patients who desperately need transplants. The concept was born right here in Baltimore.

Kai Jackson tells us the program is rapidly growing.

This partnership was just announced on Tuesday with results already. And a Johns Hopkins doctor helped to lead the charge.

A giant in social media is leveraging its people power to help save lives.

Facebook has partnered with Donate Life America to encourage its users to become organ donors.

In Maryland alone, 2,000 people are waiting for organ, tissue or eye transplants.

“One of the values I see of this is the ability to have this conversation with your social network– people you care about and people you feel comfortable with,” said Natalie Benavides of Donate Life Maryland.

“There are 200 million people in the U.S. on Facebook. There are a billion people in the world on Facebook,” Dr. Andrew Cameron, a transplant surgeon at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, said.

The idea was homegrown here in Baltimore.

Cameron is the director of liver transplants at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He and Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg were classmates at Harvard University.

At a recent reunion, the two talked about the problem of transplants and the rest– as they say– is history.

“We haven’t done a good enough job educating people, communicating to people about the importance of organ donation,” Cameron said.

Marty Maren of Baltimore was near death in 2009 from a failing liver. He credits his wife Michele and his donor with saving his life.

“I spend every minute that I have talking about organ donation,” Maren said. “I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for everyone to at least consider that.”

“People are used to using this tool to communicate with family and friends to get the opinions of people they respect. Why couldn’t we use that for this difficult problem?” Cameron said.

You can sign up to become an organ donor at your Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) or by clicking here.

Nationwide, 114,000 people are waiting for organ transplants.


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