Ontario Woman Turns to Facebook to Find a Donor After the Healthcare System Disappoints

For all the destructive by-products of social media (which have been taken to new heights this week), the medium also has the power to do a lot of good.

It can be used to raise awareness for important causes, generate charitable dollars, and even to directly save lives.

Jillian Di Bernardo, a 28-year-old hairstylist from London, Ontario, has turned to her Facebook account to try to find an organ donor before it’s too late. Because she has a better chance of finding a donor through social media than she does through Ontario’s organ donor program.

Di Bernardo was diagnosed with hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia in 2010, a relatively rare disease that results in blood vessel abnormalities. In order to live a long and healthy life, she’ll need the help of a suitable donor to give her part of their liver. Unfortunately, she could literally die waiting for one.

The thing is, the scoring method used by the hospital places her low on Ontario’s organ donor list, despite her need.

“The system in which the organs are allocated (who gets transplanted first) is kind of complicated, but to make it easy to understand, the system is a scoring system that gives you a number based on your liver function. The complications of my HHT have made it so I am actually much worse off than my score reflects. This ultimately means that this system doesn’t serve people like myself in my situation (sad and frustrating-I know!) Waiting for a deceased donor is not suitable for me at this time, because I am needing a transplant ASAP,” writes Di Bernardo in the post.

Waiting for her score to be “sick enough” was not a good enough option for Di Bernardo. That’s why she has literally taken her life into her own hands – and won’t stop until she finds a match. She made the decision for her Facebook appeal last week when she found out that a friend who had been undergoing testing wasn’t a suitable donor.

Photo: Jillian Di Bernardo

Who is a suitable donor is someone with an “O” blood type.

Of course, all candidates will undergo testing prior to surgery to determine whether or not they’re a viable match. The portion of their liver removed will also grow back.

The response to date has been overwhelmingly positive; Di Bernardo’s inbox has been filling with messages from potential donors. Even so, she can never have too many. Even if they’re not a match for her, the potential donors can help someone else.

That’s why Di Bernardo is replying to as many as possible. And why you may want to share her status yourself.

You never know who it might end up saving.