Saving Grandma (with Twitter)

This is a parable. The story, for me, started here.

Saving Grandma (with Twitter)
GFry: “So, you found a cardiac surgery unit who will accept her? In less than 30 minutes?”

That grabbed my interest, so I backtracked to find the rest of the story. The story really began here.

Saving Grandma (with Twitter)
MatthewBrowning: “SOS! HELP!! Need awesome Cardiac Surgeon in Atlanta area, south Georgia, etc for Great Grandma w/ RUPTURED Aorta!! ASAP!! Any leads?? Thanks”

You can probably guess the rest – the flood of concerned replies, the suggestions, support, and more. Matthew ended up in contact with Emory Healthcare, who provided the phone numbers to connect the doctors and coordinate the LifeFlight, and within a half hour, Matthew’s grandmother was on the flight headed to emergency surgery.

Saving Grandma (with Twitter)

Another dramatic life-saving story coming from social media. But what is it that really made this possible? The backstory, what happened before the crisis that made a difference?

Why Matthew?
Matthew has been active for many years in healthcare, social media in general, and Twitter in particular. He is a regular participant in the #HCSM Sunday night chats. He has thousands of followers. He is a known brand, recognized and credible.

Saving Grandma (with Twitter)

Why Twitter?
There are many social media platforms. Yes, Matthew is very engaged and present and all that, but if this had happened and he had called out on other social media platforms that cry for help may not have been as effective. Imagine trying this on LinkedIn, or a Ning network, or Facebook? Facebook *maybe*, but Twitter has special affordances that made it the perfect choice. It is high speed, immediate, brief, focused.

Why Now?
This happened on a Monday morning, mid-morning, as people come into the office slightly groggy and start to catch up with what happened over the weekend. Most people avoid scheduling meetings early on Mondays, and instead focus on email, and their other information channels (such as Facebook and Twitter). I’d guess there were probably more people from his network checking in at just that time than would have been true 8 to 10 hours earlier. At that time, a cry for help in Georgia might very well have gone unheard.


Combine the right person in the right place at the right time, and miracles can happen.

Still, stop and think for a moment. If Matthew had NOT been active on Twitter, active in healthcare, had a private stream or only a handful of followers, chances are very good that this would have been impossible. Think of this as a social media corollary of “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

MORAL: Professional Presence Leads to Personal Opportunities

UPDATE April 26, 2011

Saving Grandma (with Twitter)

Matthew Browning: “In the end…Even twitter couldn’t save her…RIP Grandma Ruth…”

UPDATE April 27, 2011

Wonderful blogpost from @emoryhealthcare about the events from their point of view. This is part one of a two part series.

Can Twitter Help Save Lives? A Health Care Social Media Case Study, Part I


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