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Social Networking for the Seriously Ill

Recently, a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer. It happened quickly and, though my friend wanted to reach out, it was too much of an emotional strain to call everyone and get into the details. That’s where CaringBridge came in. CaringBridge, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, provides free websites to connect family and friends during a serious health event, care and recovery. It’s like Facebook or any other social networking site, but its sole intention is to keep loved ones informed about a person’s health status.

I became a registered user of the password-protected site, via invitation only from my friend, and I’ve signed up to receive regular journal notifications. So, even though I live far away, I can stay completely updated on my friend’s latest health status. I have also sent my thoughts and prayers to my friend via the guest journal, where hundreds of messages help get my friend through the really rough times.

According to the CaringBridge website, “A CaringBridge website is personal, private and available 24/7. It helps ease the burden of keeping family and friends informed. The websites are easy to create and use. Authors add health updates and photos to share their story while visitors leave messages of love and support in the guestbook.”

CaringBridge was founded in 1997 by Sona Mehring when her close friend struggled through a life-threatening pregnancy. Mehring was asked to reach out to everyone and keep them updated. She decided to manage the daunting and difficult task of updating everyone by creating a website. Soon, the website became a place not only where friends could get medical updates about both mom and baby, but where they could leave notes of encouragement. And, after the baby lost her struggle, the site became a memorial.

“Anyone who has dealt with the loss of a loved one understands how painful it can be to share the news,” says Mehring. “The website was a place for the family to post that heart–wrenching news along with a final message to honor the baby and thank family and friends for their support.”

During the process, it became evident to Mehring that she had to help others in the same way. “I had to keep it going — to help other patients and their families who were going through similar experiences.”

CaringBridge operates solely on donations and enable families to set up websites easily, and for free. To find out more about CaringBridge, and how you can make a donation or set up a website, check them out here.

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