Facebook is not just for sharing photos and videos or connecting with friends. For senior music performance major Danielle Bishop, the social media site provided her family a unique way to find her father a kidney donor.
Last year, senior music performance major Danielle Bishop’s father, Dr. Michael Bishop, contracted atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS). aHUS is a disease so rare that Dr. Bishop was originally misdiagnosed, according to Danielle’s mother, Patty Bishop.
“It was misdiagnosed because they didn’t know what was wrong with him,” Patty said. “There are only about 200 to 300 people in the United States who have it.”
Then, came even more devastating news.
Nicole Bishop, Danielle’s older sister, said the doctors informed the family that the donor couldn’t be in their father’s immediate or extended family because those members may also have the disease in their blood.
“I started panicking a little bit,” Nicole said. “At that time, the disease had progressed a lot. We were pretty desperate.”
The doctors placed Dr. Bishop on a wait list for a kidney match, but the family couldn’t afford to waste time. Danielle said the doctors told her family the average wait lasted four to five years, but the family could not wait that long.
A frantic hunt began for a kidney match. The Bishops began spreading the word to friends, but with no luck.
Nicole said she decided it was time to expand to a wider population.
“I realized I needed to be open about it and do all I can to find somebody,” she said. “I knew about marketing and social media and I thought, ‘might as well make a Facebook page.’”
Hundreds of users began not only liking the page but also sending messages to the family offering to donate. While some were friends of family, others were complete strangers.
“People around the U.S. and people worldwide were trying to be donors,” Danielle said.
After waiting about six months, a match was finally found. The match didn’t come from another state or country. The donor, conveniently enough, was located right in the Bishop family’s hometown of Sugarland, Texas.
Jennifer Stoval has known Dr. Bishop for 10 years, but only through his office. He happens to be her son’s pediatrician.
“We were following [Dr. Bishop] when he got sick,” Stoval said. “I happened to be in the office one day and saw they had set up a Facebook page.”
Nicole said when her family heard news of the kidney match, they thought it was too good to be true since it had to be exact. But once they learned the donor resided near Sugarland and actually knew Dr. Bishop personally, their spirits lifted.
“That was the icing on the cake,” Nicole said. “We all shed a lot of tears that night. God is good.”
Prior to viewing the Facebook page, the only thing Stoval knew about the Bishops was that they had three daughters.
“The page let me see what the girls were doing and it gave me a lot of information about the family,” Stoval said. “It really helped me make my decision and start the testing because I saw that this family had come together. They were trying to reach out.”
Stovall said she never waivered during her testing and imagined herself in Patty’s position.
“I kept thinking that if it had been my husband, I would want someone to do that,” Stovall said. “It’s just interesting the way things work out.”
Dr. Bishop underwent his kidney transfer on July 16.
“It’s incredible,” Danielle said. “We are really thrilled. My dad’s alive, so we’re happy.”
Nicole said her father is back to his old self again.
“He’s doing very well,” she said. “He’s back to working full-time. He looks a lot better and has a lot more energy.
Patty said both Stovall and her husband Michael are now part of the family.
“We really enjoy having them around,” Patty said. “They’re near and dear to us.”
On every other Friday for the rest of his life, Dr. Bishop will be infused via IV with Soliris, a drug manufactured by a pharmaceutical company in Connecticut. She said the infusion prevents kidney rejection and usually takes 90 minutes to complete.
Both Michael and Patty Bishop have now put their efforts into creating and increasing awareness for aHUS. She said because the disease is so rare, it is often put on the “backburner” and forgotten.
A couple weeks ago, the couple traveled to San Diego, Calif. where they promoted their Facebook page and advocated aHUS research and treatment to 400 people in attendance.
“Facebook can do some really great things,” Patty said. “It can be bad, but it can do wonderful things, and it has for us. It brought in awareness about kidney donation.”
Readers can find the Bishop family’s public page at www.facebook.com/drbishopkidney.