49,500 Facebook friends raise money for Deltona man's liver transplant
Dale Shaylor of Deltona and Ben Hazen of Montoursville, Pa., have never met, but maybe they should -- considering Hazen might have saved Shaylor's life.
Shaylor, 40, a father of three, contracted Hepatitis B and D in Venezuela, where he grew up as part of a missionary family. It damaged his liver so much so that he needed a liver transplant.
With his insurance only paying $100,000 toward the surgery, Florida hospitals were requiring Shaylor put down a $500,000 deposit before he could be considered a transplant candidate.
"I was hopeful -- but it seemed like an insurmountable task," said Shaylor, who worked as a pilot for Venezuelan missions.
So, before the medical miracle, he needed a money miracle. Enter Hazen, 27, a youth director at Community Baptist Church in central Pennsylvania, and his friends on the social media site Facebook.
Hazen had only vaguely heard of Shaylor's declining health and need for a liver transplant through his church, but the situation touched him immediately, he said.
"If I was in that situation, I would have thought it would be impossible," Hazen said. "For someone's life to be in the balance for a half a million ... Who has that?"
Divide the sum among his 800-something Facebook friends and their friends and their friends' friends, it started to look more manageable, though. And so Hazen started a Facebook page detailing Shaylor's situation called "How many good Samaritans can I find in one month?"
The answer: About 49,500 in two months. And, they raised $200,000. A few radio interviews and two months later, by mid-May, the effort had raised $290,000.
"It's a small miracle," Hazen said, estimating the average donation was about $25. "He and I have never met most of the people who gave."
At one point, money was flowing into the account for the surgery at a rate of $3,000 a day, stunning even the officials at the National Foundation for Transplant, a national organization currently managing the cases of about 1,200 transplant patients who need to raise money for their surgery expenses.
"We've been amazed," said foundation spokeswoman Mandy Stockton. "That was the first that we have seen as a direct result of social media."
Another break came when a hospital in Memphis, Methodist University Hospital, offered to put Shaylor on its liver transplant waiting list with a deposit of $250,000. He was put on the list June 4 and, 10 days later, was getting a liver from a cadaver. Eight weeks post-operation, Shaylor is slowly beginning to feel normal again.
Shaylor has a bunch of thank-you's to put out, including one to the liver donor's family.
"It really was unbelievable," Shaylor said, explaining he has had no complications. "I give all the credit to God. It was his will. People responded and gave. Many, many people I've never met."
Hazen has also been awestruck with the outpouring -- and the need he's encountered.
As news has spread about his success raising money for Shaylor, Hazen has heard of other, similarly heart-tugging situations.
"I heard from someone in Tennessee, asking, 'Can you make a website for us because my daughter needs a double-lung transplant?' " he said. "But I'm not a professional campaign manager."
He said the experience showed him that when it comes to getting the health care people need, there's definitely a problem. But the solution also seems crystal clear.
"If there was a system where we all had a lot of hands working, we could haul a lot of wood," he said. "I think that's what happened with Dale."
The two plan to meet sometime next year.http://bit.ly/qTBc7K