About a month ago, I was reading through my timeline on Twitter when I was struck by a post by one of my followers, Abbie (also known as @abbielicious613). Abbie’s tweets frequently catch my eye, as she has been one of my loyal followers almost since Day 1, she’s a fellow Nashvillian, and she consistently tweets about events and activities she is organizing to make the world around her a better place. I also feel a certain kinship with her because she is, as I am, a lifelong fan of the New Kids on the Block. And if you are a lifelong fan of NKOTB, you are part of an unspoken “sisterhood” of sorts that requires you to meet no special criteria or even have a formal introduction with another fan to consider them a friend.
The post that caught my attention last month was an announcement by Abbie that she, along with the help of New Kid, Donnie Wahlberg, had located several potential kidney donors via a Twitter campaign to help save the life of Abbie’s best friend, Bobbette. I read through the tweets again, skipping from Abbie’s to Donnie’s timeline, thinking “WOW! Could this be possible?” I knew immediately that this was a story that had to be told. My beloved world of Twitter, which for me has become more of a family than anything else, along with a brave, determined single girl from Nashville and one of my all-time favorite boy banders were responsible for waging an online campaign that saved someone’s LIFE?
After reaching out to Abbie to learn more about the situation, I discovered that while Bobbette’s health condition might be deteriorating, hers and Abbie’s spirits are not:
“Bobbette was born with Alph-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. It causes liver disease in children and young adults, and can cause lung disease in older adults,” explains Abbie. “When she was three years old, she received a liver transplant. The doctors informed her parents that she might live to be seven, but that was pushing it. Obviously, they were wrong because she celebrated her 30th birthday last year.”
Abbie first posted a call to action looking for a kidney donor for Bobbette on December 9, 2010, as Bobbette’s health continued to decline and the situation began to look more and more hopeless.
“In the spring of last year, we discovered that the anti-rejection medicine that Bobbette has been on her entire life had destroyed her kidneys,” says Abbie.“She ended up in the ICU at Vanderbilt. After running an extensive battery of tests, they determined that her kidney function was hovering around 20%.”
With the launch of a little blog with a big heart called “Love Can Do Anything,” the race to find a kidney donor to save Bobbette’s life was on. Slowly, responses began to trickle in…but the campaign was about to go high profile, with an unexpected Knight in Shining Armor stepping in to help save the day.
The campaign had caught the attention of New Kid on the Block, Donnie Wahlberg (@DonnieWahlberg), who tweeted the link to the blog out to his nearly 160,000 followers.
“When Donnie tweeted that link, he opened up a whole universe of possible donors that I would never have had access to,” says Abbie.“Those fans, in turn, retweeted the blog to their followers. Within an hour, there had been over 2,000 hits on the blog.”
After Donnie’s tweet, potential donors began to step up and identify themselves. One, two, three…until the list grew to six! Though none of the donors are friends or family of Bobbette by blood, they share one very important link: They are proud “Blockheads” – the nickname dubbed by fans of NKOTB for their tried and true community of “Five Brothers and a Million Sisters.” And though the kindness of these sisters in spirit touches Abbie deeply, their fierce loyalty to “one of their own” doesn’t surprise her.
“[Blockheads] are a force to be reckoned with. It goes far beyond watching five guys sing and dance on a stage. We raise thousands of dollars for breast cancer research, donate thousands of books to children’s literacy programs. Just like any family, there are differences, but when it comes down to the important things, like saving someone’s life, we will band together tighter than any group of people in this world. We get things done.”
And the leader of this “family” is arguably the notoriously big-hearted, outspoken, wildly colorful Donnie Wahlberg, whose genuine love for his fans extends well beyond the 140 characters of Twitter.
“Over the whirlwind that has been this past month, Donnie has continued to send encouragement to not only Bobbette and myself, but to potential donors,” says Abbie. “He’s genuinely concerned about the outcome of all of this. And he’s been great about passing on the good news of finding so many donors.”
So what does this mean to Abbie and Bobbette, to know that at the heart of their “Love Can Do Anything” campaign are the five guys they’ve loved for the greater part of their lives?
“I’ve sat at Bobbette’s bedside in the hospital numerous times. I’ve helped her get dressed after they’ve released her and picked her up to put her in the car. I’ve slept on the floor next to her bed on nights that she’s been sick at home. So to turn around and have this massive sea of people ready to help, ready to do whatever they need to do, it’s astounding. And to have it all happen because five guys decided they wanted to sing again? If I wasn’t standing in the middle of it, I’d call it absurd. But because I am in the middle of it, I’m calling it a miracle.”
Today Bobbette is looking at a much brighter future than she was even two months ago. She is currently waiting on the next round of testing on the potential donors to find a match, she got engaged on Christmas Day…and she and Abbie get to see their five heroes up close and personal when the New Kids make a tour stop in Nashville in June (coincidentally, so will I!). And both girls continue to live by their motto, “Love Can Do Anything.” Because together…with a little help from five brothers and a million sisters…they proved it can.
“I have to say that while I am humbled and astounded at the level this has gotten to, I am not surprised by it,” says Abbie. “Love is a verb, it requires action. And when you put love into action, mountains move…no matter how large.”
Please visit http://www.donatelife.net/ for more information about organ, tissue, and eye donation.