Saving lives through the internet

GARDEN CITY, S.C. (WPDE) - Thousands of people die each year while waiting on an organ transplant, but Facebook is making it easier for you to be a donor. That's led to a significant spike in the number of people joining South Carolina's organ donation list.

Within 24 hours, Donate Life South Carolina saw 158 people sign up to be donors. That's compared to an average of about five people a day on the website.

For a Garden City man whose son died while waiting on a lung transplant, it's welcome news. Inside the home of Alan and Jane Sipe, memories of their son Justin are everywhere. His bedroom and an adjoining den reflect his love of hunting and being a volunteer firefighter with Murrells Inlet Garden City Fire District.

At three months old Justin was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, and by the time he turned 21, he needed a lung transplant.

"Not only were we hopeful, we lived every day waiting on the phone call that would allow us to get that, to give Justin one final shot at life and to extend his life," explains Alan Sipe.

But the call didn't come, and after two years of being on the transplant list, Justin died in the hospital on February 4, 2006. He was 23.

There isn't a day that goes by that his family doesn't think of him.

"I just miss seeing him come through the front door at night," says Sipe.

Alan has channeled his loss into advocacy and now tells Justin's story at organ donations events across the state.

"We can't have our son back, but maybe by helping promote organ donation, we can help another family avoid some of the heartbreak that we had gone through," says Sipe. "We keep working and we keep pushing and keep promoting and the more we get, the better chance that that person that's on the waiting list has of extending their life."

Becoming an organ donor only takes five minutes online.