More organ seekers turning to Web to find them

There are almost 90,000 people waiting for organs in the United States. Often, patients can wait years to get an organ, if they get one at all.

That's leading more and more patients to take their search for an organ online.

Christine Jacobsen was one of them, reports CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton.

Christine can't help but laugh and smile when she thinks about being a life-saving match with total stranger Lee Cole.

The single mom of two boys, Mike and George, Christine's tried to stay upbeat, despite spending most of her life suffering with lupus nephritis -- a complication of lupus that causes kidney disease.

"I lost my freedom," Christine says. "I had to go to dialysis three times a week, after work."

After waiting seven years on four different transplant lists, she finally got a call about a cadaver kidney. But that transplant failed.

"I was really depressed," Christine recalls, "because I felt like I'm never gonna get a kidney. I was on dialysis at that point for seven years."

Rather than wait the estimated five-to-ten years for a kidney match on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the government's national donor list, Christine took her quest for a kidney online, to MatchingDonors.com.

"First you would have to write a profile," Christine says. " ... What they do is generate a list of donors, potential donors."

MatchingDonors.com is one of a growing number of living donor websites that are increasingly being used as an alternative to UNOS. To date, they've matched more than 150 patients waiting for organs. It wasn't long before Christine found a match in Lee, a mother and wife .

"I liked the idea that I would at least be able to know something about the person that my kidney was going to," Lee says. "It was just kinda having some kind of connection other than the obvious, that my kidney was going to them."

Lee was drawn to MatchingDonors in part because her uncle had died after not being able to find a suitable organ donor.

"My uncle didn't need my kidney, and I had always had it in the back of my mind that maybe someone else could use it," Lee says.

Dr. Sandip Kapur, the chief of transplant surgery at New York Presbyterian hospital, says he's seeing an increase in donor matches being found online. "If people come with altruistic donors," he says, "given the organ shortage that exists, we look at it as a viable opportunity for them."

Just five months after Christine and Lee found each other online, Dr. Kapur performed the surgery that would save Christine's life .

"I got a kidney transplant from a wonderful person. An angel!" Christine exclaimed.

Thanks to Lee, once a total stranger, after a few days of recovery, Christine has a brand new kidney and a lifetime friend.

"I hoped for a perfect kidney for me," Christine says, "and a perfect operation, and perfect timing, and I got all three."

With the growing popularity of online donor sites, hospitals have stepped up their screening processes and are stricter about so-called Good Samaritan transplants, in order to avoid any illegal activity. It is against the law to pay for organs.

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