Most sick patients looking for an organ donation sign up with a transplant center and are then left to wait and hope a match is found.
About 1,500 people in the D.C. area are waiting for kidney transplants, but that waiting game can be deadly if a matching donor isn’t found soon enough.
Six-year-old Danny was born with a rare kidney disease. His mother has already exhausted family and friends as potential donors. The family is now they're appealing to strangers on the Internet.
Danny’s mother Pilar Jaramillo says doctors keep encouraging the Oakton family to be patient and wait for the transplant center to find a matching donor.
“It’s very difficult to say that to a woman who has a child that on any given day could not be there anymore,” Jaramillo said.
Danny has been waiting for three years and three months for a kidney donation. He has to go through hours of dialysis a day and take a range of medications.
“You can clearly see the difference between supply and demand... And about two-thirds of the people end up dying while they wait,” said Michele Anthony of the National Kidney Foundation.
Jaramillo is launching a YouTube video, creating a website for Danny and networking through Facebook and websites like matchingdonors.com. A $595 registration fee is required to sign up with the website, unless the patient is under 18 or on social assistance.
“I cannot say enough good things about matchingdonors.com... Danny's got amazing response,” she said. “We've had 25 people contact us.”
Despite the hopeful response, doctors warn of pitfalls using the internet.
“You don't know much about them. You don't know if their motives are pure. Could be solicitation,” said Dr. Jimmy Light of the Washington Hospital Center.
Unscrupulous donors have taken to social networking sites to demand fees for organs, which is illegal in the U.S. but legal in some other countries.
“Two instances, we thought people were from Canada and MA and they were from another part of the world,” Jaramillo said. “We don't know what these people will expect once they're here.”
Jaramillo is careful but refuses to give up her cyber search.
“Hope is the last thing you lose. You never lose hope,” she said.
Two people who were located through the website matchingdonors.org are being tested to see if they are a match for Danny.