You may want to sit down for this.
While there’s no shortage of stories of gracious people giving blood and donating organs, a new nonprofit is encouraging people to hand over their No. 2’s to help those with plaguing gastrointestinal conditions.
After watching a friend and relative with C. difficile infection, an aggressive intestinal bug, suffer through 18 months of ineffective treatments, a small group of microbiologists, public health advocates and concerned citizens founded OpenBiome in 2012.
The concerned founders felt heartened when their loved one was able to recover after getting a fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), aka a poop transplant, and they wanted to make it easier for other patients to get access to the life-changing procedure, according to the group’s website.
C. difficile attacks the lining of the intestines and can lead to constant diarrhea and severe abdominal pain, among other issues, according to WebMD. It affects about 500,000 people in the U.S. every year and can be fatal in extreme cases, according to OpenBiome. About 14,000 to 30,000 people succumb to the condition annually.
While introducing healthy fecal matter is relatively simple -- since it can be done via endoscopy, nasal tubes or swallowed capsules -- obtaining rigorously screened, healthy poop was incredibly challenging before OpenBiome hit the scene, The Washington Post reported. So desperate for a reprieve, many patients resorted to conducting at-home transplants, which can pose serious risks without proper medical supervision, according to the nonprofit.
The Medford, Massachusetts group has streamlined the process by exhaustively screening potential donors and then sending the filtered, frozen and ready-to-use fecal matter to hospitals and clinics around the country.
What used to take clinicians about two to three hours to conduct, now can be completed in 20 to 30 minutes.
As of December, OpenBiome had shipped more than 1,500 treatments of stool to 150 hospitals and clinics in 36 states.
And viable donors (you have to be between 18 and 50 and have a BMI less than 30) are compensated pretty handsomely.
Prospective donors get $40 for a sample, and accepted donors can earn up to $250 a week (that’s $13,000 a year).
"We get most of our donors to come in three or four times a week, which is pretty awesome," co-founder Mark Smith told The Post. "You're usually helping three or four patients out with each sample, and we keep track of that and let you know."
While the group doesn’t currently have the bandwidth to correspond directly with patients, it’s doing its part to help people who can’t afford the procedure.
In the last six months, OpenBiome has sent 45 pro bono treatments, which included helping a homeless veteran who was being treated at a VA hospital, Carolyn Edelstein, an OpenBiome employee, told HuffPost via email.
The vet had recurring episodes of C. difficile and his social worker reached out to the organization for help.
"She had expected to have to negotiate hard against a more traditional pharmaceutical organization for a discount, and was very glad we had the program," Edelstein said. "The procedure went well, and he's since recovered."