OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network

Cristina Di Corte with OneMatch Coordinator of Donor Management Hailu Mulatu at a HopeforCristina event

Although medical statistics, scientific findings, and physicians’ expertise are important, none are as powerful at building and mobilizing a community, as a story.

Unfortunately, it is a story all too familiar – a young woman affected by a rare disorder and in need of a stem cell transplant to survive. Her family and friends holding their breath collectively with the desperate hope of one day finding the one match to save her life. It’s how patients and their families react to this news that is remarkable.

For Anthony DiCorte, hearing that his older sister Cristina DiCorte was diagnosed with a rare disorder that affects the digestive and nervous systems, it was all about reacting quickly to help.

Immediately Anthony turned to social media to help spread the word. With the click of a mouse, Anthony set up a Twitter account (@Hope4Cristina) and created #HopeforCristina, as a way to connect with others to raise awareness and increase stem cell registration within Canada’s young and diverse population.

Working with a Patient and Transplant Liaison Specialist at OneMatch, Anthony was given all the information he needed to start tweeting. Anthony was especially keen on tweeting that the best stem cell donors are 17 – 35 years old, diverse and male. This story resonated strongly with Anthony and Cristina’s peers who are the main users of this new forum of news gathering and sharing.

Anthony’s appeal for young Canadians to help his sister and others waiting for their match was heard loud and clear. Sheridan College film student Samantha van der Beek (@PerfectMatch4U1) made the plea her own by organizing a documentary film about the need for stem cell donors that included a passionate call-to-action of Cristina’s story. Samantha in turn, used social media to keep Cristina’s story alive on behalf of all patients.

“In only 140 characters people connect so strongly to the idea of hope,” says filmmaker van der Beek. “This is the power of social media. It brings people together in action so much more often than the factual state and science of someone’s situation.”

Utilizing all social media tools was important in both the release and promotional strategies of the film which included a Facebook page. This grew into Cristina’s Day of Action – a community event made to get as many people as possible to simultaneously tweet about stem cell donation using #HopeforCristina. The goal was to make #HopeforCristina a nationally trending topic.

“What baffles me is how little is known about stem cell donation. 20 year-olds don’t know how easy it is to register with OneMatch in hopes of one day donating,” notes Samantha when discussing the need for social media storytelling among her peers. “Kids talk… that’s what they can do to help save the lives of stem cell patients… talk about this.”

Talking about the need is core to Anthony and the rest of the DiCorte family as they continue to use social media to bring awareness to the need for younger and more diverse donors.

Christina’s story continues to captivate as it rapidly changes with each Twitter feed. Young Canadians are now using social media to engage the conversations that lead to action.

If Samantha van der Beek had 140 characters or less to describe how important social media is in helping stem cell patients, she would say, “huge.”