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How Facebook Saved One Woman's Son

Self-portrait of Deborah and her son, Leo, on a stretcher in triage

I’ve written about my love/hate relationship with Facebook before. There are things about Facebook that I absolutely detest. For example, two of my friends have higher scores than I do on Slingo. I know, right?! I don’t like being poked by miscellaneous people, I sometimes wonder what goes through people’s (myself included) head when I read the trivialities we post online for the world to read, and I hate it when someone takes a picture of me looking like a slug and then tags me in it.

But this story, originally reported by Slate, is a terrific example of why Facebook is awesome!

As she wrote for Slate, Deborah Copaken Kogan learned firsthand how Facebook can create a wonderful community. When her four-year-old son, Leo, awoke with a rash and a fever on Mother’s Day, Deborah wondered if he’d contracted strep throat since he’d recently come home with a report of strep in his classroom at school. Believing he had strep, she made an appointment with a physician who had Sunday hours. While waiting for the results of his strep screen, she posted a picture she’d just taken of her son, on Facebook with the caption, “Nothing says Happy Mother’s Day quite like a Sunday morning at the pediatrician’s.” That totally sounds like something I would do; something I’ve probably already done.

His strep test came back negative, but Deborah, mother of three, wasn’t concerned because none of her kids had ever received a positive rapid strep test. Given the boys symptoms, the doctor opted to treat him with antibiotics for strep while they awaited the results of the throat culture.

Believing her son would feel better in a day or two, Deborah went home to work on her manuscript. In the meantime, friends left comments on her Facebook page, asking how Leo was. She told them he had strep.

The next morning, however, he was worse. She brought him to the doctor and while waiting in the exam room, posted another picture on Facebook, this time with the caption, “Baby getting sicker. Eyes swollen shut. Fever rising. Penicillin not working. Might be scarlet fever. Or roseola. Or…???? Sigh.”

Soon there was a flood of comments in regards to the picture. “Allergic reaction?”, “Scarlet fever isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds”, “Deb, that doesn’t even look like Leo in the picture!! how’s he doing now? so scary!” Deborah didn’t think it was really scary. Until the next day, that is when Leo awoke, swollen beyond recognition.

She snapped some more pictures and posted them to her Facebook wall with the caption, “Swelling worse, especially eyes and chin. Fever still crazy high. Poor baby.” It didn’t take long for Facebook friends to comment, send private messages and even phone calls. A friend phoned Deborah and urged her to take her son to the ER right away because her son had exhibited the same symptoms when he’d had a rare, but life threatening illness – Kawasaki Disease. Soon after, another Facebook friend, a nurse, called her with the same concerns. Then, yet another Facebook friend who happens to be a pediatric cardiologist and understood the dangers of untreated Kawasaki Disease echoed the advice of the previous friends.

In the end, Deborah took her son to the hospital where he was treated for Kawasaki Disease. Without the important feedback from her Facebook friends, Deborah might have waited, thinking it was simply a bad case of strep that wasn’t responding quickly to the antibiotics. And waiting, might have cost Leo his life with such a serious illness. What a great story of how being connected to others through Facebook can help in amazing ways. I know I’ve gotten advice on finding a mechanic, things to bring up to my lawyer while I was going through my divorce, tips for dealing with diverticulitis, and a reminder of free chicken day at Chick-fil-A. I’ve gotten recipes and advice on selling my house. My Facebook friends have provided me with unbelievable support over the years! Do you have a story like this? How has your Facebook community helped you?

Read more details of the story at Slate.

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