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Isaac Zablocki Headshot

Facebook, My Hero -- The Power of Community

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The other day a cynical friend asked me what Facebook was good for. Couldn't we simply cut the cord with Facebook and be no worse off? I answered, "It can save your life."

Five months ago, my darling 1-year-old nephew, Idan, was diagnosed with a very rare genetic disorder known as Hyper IgM. At eight months he developed a strange lung infection that only people with a compromised or no immune system can get. After a life-threatening three-week stay at the hospital, the doctors diagnosed his disorder.

When a child has a critical illness, their whole family joins a new club. The membership benefits include all access passes to a nightmarish existence. The parents of the child go through unimaginable trials in this crazy alternative universe of having a sick child. As if life is not complicated enough, then it goes and throws another curve ball that hits you right in the face.

You spend your days with a huge knot in your stomach that is distracted only by the pressing need to manage our faulty health care system. Even under Obamacare, this is a system that can keep you in a constant state of anxiety. If the idea is to distract parents from worrying about their kids by worrying about their insurance -- it works! (Kinda.)

Idan is one of the lucky ones, and has insurance, but sadly, that still limits you. You would think that paying your monthly fee would have you covered for when you need it. Even with insurance, you not only have to worry about the wellbeing of your child, you have to worry about covering the endless bills.

Luckily for Idan, he was in the best hands possible. His mother is a lawyer and his father is a healthcare consultant. On top of that, his father, my brother, happened to have had a life-threatening brain tumor a few years back. The doctors gave him no more than six months to live, but our entire family took action and learned that you should not always listen to your doctors. We found a surgeon in Arizona who operates on the brain stem and he completely removed the tumor. It was a nightmare, but my brother and the entire family came out the other side much stronger. It was then we learned the importance of having a social network.

My brother dedicated his life to getting the word out, and through his social network, managed to spread the word of his story -- and saving the lives of others.

The moment Idan was diagnosed, the family sprung back into action. This gave us extra strength through tough moments. We already knew that there are other doctors out there, and if anyone was going to find the best treatment, it was us.

It became clear that in order to save his life, Idan was going to need a bone marrow transplant. Once again, Idan was one of the lucky ones and had a perfect match. Most doctors recommended doing the transplant close to home. But we already learned not to simply follow doctors' orders.

What really puts Idan in good hands is the fact that he has the most caring parents in the world. They scoured the country for the optimal place to do the transplant and chose to defy the doctors recommendations and do it in Seattle -- the furthest place from home in New York City. Doing the transplant, they were told, close to home is good for the parents. My brother and sister-in-law only had one thing in mind -- doing what is best for Idan.

Next, they had to take on the insurance company. The hospital in Seattle was not in their network and would not take Idan. As they began to raise money for Idan's procedure through crowd sourcing, Idan became a mini-celebrity. Our family was lucky enough to have the ability and the social network to spread the word widely. News outlets picked up on his story and the community embraced the cause.

This also helped pressure the insurance company who was still resisting covering the hospital in Seattle. The unthinkable happened, and the insurance company changed Idan's plan to get him covered. If you can get an insurance company to change -- it gives you hope that anything can be done.

As Seattle got the green light, Idan's family prepared for the big move. A minimum of six months out alone in Seattle, away from their family and friends. And then the next obstacle came. Idan could not fly out on a commercial jet, as he was basically kept in maximum security isolation since he was diagnosed. They needed a private jet, and the organization that finds and donates these kinds of things told them there were no planned flights to Seattle in their network. They were stuck again.

They immediately turned to their trusted Facebook page and in moments started spreading the word of their latest need. Within three days, they had multiple private jet options in play and through the goodness of a friend of a friend on Facebook, Idan was flown to Seattle in time for his transplant.

I could not help but take a moment to be in awe of our amazing community. We live in New York, a huge and disconnected city, where the individual can feel lost. Still, when the community needed to mobilize for a good cause -- they proved themselves above and beyond. Thousands in our global community supported Idan's cause, organizations opened their doors, people sent gifts, and together, brought him to his transplant safe and sound.

He could not be in better hands than this community. We are very lucky to have this level of social network clout. But I can't help but think of those who do not have these resources. What of the people who cannot find a connection to Jet? Or cannot push the insurance company? Or cannot raise the funds to cover all that insurance does not cover (which can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars)?

For those critical of Facebook and the disconnected world of social networking, think of Idan the next time you choose to like a picture of a cute cat, and not of someone in need.