Would You Donate an Organ to a Facebook Stranger?

Amit Gupta, founder of the photo community site Photojojo, went to his doctor last September after he'd been losing weight and feeling worn out. The shocking diagnosis: acute leukemia. In what was surely a terrifying chain of events, Gupta went straight to the hospital, had transfusions through the night, and immediately began chemotherapy.

The 32-year-old entrepreneur needs a bone marrow transplant, but he's got yet another challenge to face. Gupta is of Indian heritage, and South Asians are greatly underrepresented in the bone marrow pool. While most people have an 80 percent chance of finding a donor, for a South Asian, that number drops to 1 in 20,000.

The good news is that Amit Gupta's got technology -- specifically, social media -- on his side. Using nothing much more than word of mouth, his friends and colleagues have launched a massive campaign to share the news about Gupta's need for a bone marrow match.


His friends set up a website, Amit Gupta Needs You, which aims to use Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook to encourage people (especially of South Asian descent) to send in cheek swabs and organize donor registry drives. Gupta and his friends also put together a video to spread awareness about the issue:

Gupta admits he was initially reluctant to reach out in this way:

I don’t like to ask for help, and though I’m very social—something about asking for help with this felt too personal and too selfish. It helped me to be able to frame it as something that wasn’t just about me—but was about increasing the odds and helping everyone of South Asian descent.

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with websites like Twitter and Facebook, but stories like this -- and similar ones, like this one about a man donating a kidney to a Facebook stranger -- make me realize what a true gift it is that we have the ability to reach such a wide audience these days. After all, without social media, what chance did Amit Gupta have of spreading his message to as many people as he has? He might have landed one local news story, if he was lucky. Thanks to those who have shared this story across the web, Gupta has reached thousands and thousands of people.

It seems just right that a man who helped form the social media tools we use today is benefiting from these innovations. I really, really hope his story has a happy ending.

If you'd like to get tested to see if you're a match for Amit or the many other folks in need of a bone marrow transplant, join this registry. It's free and just involves a cheek swab.

Image via Amit Gupta Needs You!

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