The first-grade classroom of a new school is named for Nicholas

The first-grade classroom in a new primary school for gifted children in Catania, Sicily, has been named for Nicholas. The John Dewey Institute, which emphasizes linguistics and international studies, features his story as an example of creative ties between countries. 

John Dewey Institute

The principal, Professor Giuseppe Adernò, a tireless spokesman for organ donation, says “When the organs and corneas of this little American boy went to seven Italians it changed the entire attitude of the country to organ donation.”

Catania John Dewey Institute - classroom

Four of Nicholas’ seven recipients are Sicilian: the liver recipient who had a son after the transplant whom she named Nicholas; a kidney recipient, who was only 10 when he was transplanted; and two adults who were saved from blindness.  

Professor Adernò was the principal of another school when Nicholas was killed 27 years ago. In the hallway of that school there were two clocks: one on Italian time, the other on California time, where Nicholas had lived, to remind the students every day that anyone, however small, could help others at any time.  

 

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New edition of “The Nicholas Effect”

A new low-priced edition of The Nicholas Effect, the book I wrote of how the shooting of a young boy saved thousands of lives, has just been issued.

“I can think of no book that surpasses The Nicholas Effect in opening the heart,” Bud Gardner, editor of Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul, said of it. The book was the basis for the Jamie Lee Curtis made-for-television movie, “Nicholas’ Gift.

Book cover

It includes chapters on how Nicholas was shot and what life is like for our family without him, the trial of his killers, the making of the movie and the extraordinary response to his death around the world. The book can be bought on all the usual online sites. For Amazon, you may click here

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Data: ‘Italian organ donations 1992-2020’

On October 1 it will be 27 years since Nicholas died and became a donor. The effect on organ donations in Italy was spectacular. Even in the fourth quarter of 1994, just weeks after he was killed, donation rates went up 20 percent. In the next ten years they tripled, a rate of increase no other country has even come close to. 

Organ donations in Italy over the years - SIT report

Source: “Annual Report on Italian Organ Donation, to December 31 2020; Transplant Information System, Italian National Transplant Center”

(Light green is living donations of kidneys, orange is living donations of a portion of livers.)

The full report (in Italian) is at  https://trapianti.sanita.it/statistiche/attivita/2020_D_ATTIVITA_ORGANI_DX-TX.pdf

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Jamie Lee Curtis, who just received the Golden Lion Life Achievement Award at the Venice Film Festival on September 8, was once my wife!

     The first words Jamie Lee Curtis said to Maggie Green, the mother of Nicholas Green, the seven-year old California boy who was shot while on a family vacation in Italy, and whom she was going to play in a made-for-television movie, were: “I hope I won’t  let you down, Maggie.”

      I can’t think of any other superstar who would have had the unpretentiousness and sense of involvement to say anything like that. As the mother of two adopted children, Nicholas’ death was a knife in her own heart. Yet she was able to discipline her anguish into a performance that earned her a nomination for an Emmy.

movie GreensOnLocation

     The movie, “Nicholas’ Gift,” was based on our decision to donate our son’s organs and corneas to seven very sick Italians, four of them teenagers.

     Awareness of the loss of life due to the shortage of donated organs increased all over the world as millions of people understood for the first time that a simple ‘yes’ could save multiple families from devastation. In Italy alone donations tripled in the next ten years, a rate of increase no other country has come close to,

     The movie was made in 1998, four years after Nicholas was killed. It has been seen by around a hundred million people, including forty million in the United States. Les Moonves, then CEO of CBS, said it was the network’s ‘crown jewel.’ In the movie, I am played by Alan Bates.

     A few days ago Jamie told me she is as proud of her performance in that role as anything else in her career. Deservedly. I don’t think anyone watching her working her way from the horror of the shooting to the quiet determination to save the lives of total strangers could remain indifferent to its message of selflessness. It was just how Maggie dealt with it in real life.

JLC VENICE FILM FESTIVAL

    On a street in Rome two or three years after the movie was made, a stranger came up to me and told me he was an extra in it. “We were all  expecting a bigshot Hollywood star but every day she ate in the canteen with the rest of the cast.”

     The genuine article? You bet.

P.S. Jamie, We were married for only ninety minutes but they were some of the most consequential in my life!

Reg Green

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Canada’s “Most Tenacious Donor Advocate”

George Marcello, Canada’s most tenacious advocate for organ donation, has died aged 65, after a long illness made worse by his refusal to slow his relentless campaign to raise awareness of the worldwide shortage of donated organs. In the 27 years that I have been traveling the world for the same cause, I have never met anyone who gave more of himself to organ donation. Working mostly alone, he took up the cause when his own life was saved in 1997 by a donated liver. He walked thousands of miles across  Canada carrying a torch — the Torch of Life, he called it — attracting a following in whatever community, large and small, he walked through. One of those who wanted to know more was Pope John Paul II who blessed the torch when he gave an audience to George in Rome in 2001. 

George Marcello

                             (Photo by ‘Step by Step Organ Transplant Association’)

Among his many initiatives was bringing together the family of Palestinans, whose son was shot by mistake by an Israeli soldier and whose organs went to Israeli children, and the mother of a British Jew who was blown up by a Palestinian terrorist, one of whose kidneys went to a Palestinian. I don’t know anyone else who would have thought of that powerful lesson for humanity and had the iron determination to make it happen.

For more please see https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/step-by-step-organ-transplant-association/ 

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Article on “IntechOpen”: ‘The results Are Positive in the Great Majority of Cases…’

IntechOpen, which describes itself as ‘the world’s largest publisher of online open access papers’ recently published a paper by Reg Green titled:

“The Results Are Positive for Both Sides in the Great Majority of Cases When Organ Donor Families and Their Recipients Decide to Communicate with Each Other, US Experience in Tens of Thousands of Cases Shows”

intech open video

Click this link to watch the video: 28E6021C-146D-40E7-B9F4-193CCC570762.mov

Here is the abstract and a link to the full article.

Abstract:

Many countries restrict the ability of organ donor families and their recipients to communicate with each other; many make it virtually impossible. These restrictions were made for the best of reasons, mainly because of fears that one side or the other might suffer psychological damage. In the United States, however, for more than 25 years, communication has been strongly encouraged if both parties want it and under conditions set by their medical advisers. In literally tens of thousands of cases, a great majority of those contacts, which can range from the exchange of anonymous letters to face-to-face meetings, have proved to be therapeutic for both sides and significant problems have been very rare. Indeed, it is the families who are kept apart who may suffer most. The author is an American journalist, whose seven-year old son was shot on a family vacation in Italy whose organs and corneas were donated there. He and his wife have met all seven recipients and everyone, he says, has benefited.

https://www.intechopen.com/online-first/the-results-are-positive-for-both-sides-in-the-great-majority-of-cases-when-organ-donor-families-and

For more information contact Reg Green at rfdgreen@gmail.com

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From Wisconsin Association of Talented and Gifted: “Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Award”

Twenty years ago Maggie and I began offering the Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Award to primary school students who displayed the characteristics they saw in their own son: love of learning, integrity, kindness.

The award, which included a check for $100, was offered through the state associations of teachers of gifted and talented students to one student in every  participating state. It was financed by the money the Greens had put aside for Nicholas’ college costs and when the money ran out, some states continued the project. Here is the announcement we received recently from the Wisconsin Association for the Talented and Gifted.

wisconsin NGA 2021

https://www.watg.org/awards–scholarships.html

Perhaps your state’s association of teachers would like to know more.

Reg Green

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Meeting Recipients One Of My Most Fulfilling Moments

February 4th will be the 26th anniversary when my wife, Maggie, and I first met six of the seven people whose lives were transformed because they received the organs or corneas of my seven-year old son, Nicholas Green. Nicholas, an American boy, was shot in a bungled robbery on the Salerno to Reggio Calabria autostrada four months earlier while we were on a family vacation. The seventh recipient was doing well but was still recovering in hospital.

    Meeting them in Messina, in an event arranged by the Bonino-Pulejo Foundation, was one of the most fulfilling events of my life. (Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzCKZBfPcGE).

Until then they were just names. Seeing them brought it home to me in the most vivid way how much devastation our simple decision had saved.

Meeting with all the recipients a year after the first time

Meeting all the recipients a year later
Courtesy of OGGI magazine (1996)

     Twenty-six years later five of the recipients are still living productive lives, although one is back on dialysis and another had to have a second corneal transplant.

      That meeting, however, would be impossible in Italy now. In 1999 a law was passed forbidding healthcare personnel to divulge any information about either organ donors or recipients. It had the best of motives – to ensure privacy — but has had the insensitive, some would say cruel, result that the two families can never have more than the most basic information about each other. They cannot even exchange anonymous letters.

   But now a bill has been introduced in Parliament to allow the two sides to write to each other, if both want to, or even meet, under conditions set by their doctors. Dr. Pierpaolo Sileri, Deputy Minister of Health comments, “The liberalization of contacts between recipients and donor families is a deed of humanity and civilization, a right and proper act”.

    This is an astounding change. When I started a campaign in 2016 to liberalize contacts, I could not get a single doctor or health care official to join me — only a friend from Rome, Andrea Scarabelli. We were so alone we became known as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

     But when we opened our campaign enough open-minded people in the media were able to visualize how comforting it is for donor families to learn what a difference their donation has made. Some of the largest newspapers published major articles, some of the largest television shows ran interviews, radio interviews reached drivers stuck in traffic. From being a subject that was as dead as the dodo, people all over Italy began to ask the health authorities: “If two families with as close a bond as this want to contact each other, why should some bureaucrat have the power so say no?” Marco Galbiati, of Lecco, whose 15-year old son, Ricky, died in 2017, collected 50,000 signatures to repeal the law.

     But we did not have to rely on emotion. In the United States, where contacts are not only allowed but have been strongly recommended for nearly thirty years, tens of thousands of families have written to each other and some of them have met. Clinically-documented reports show the great majority of these contacts have been therapeutic for both sides.

    After studying the evidence, each of the main health authorities — the National Bioethics Committee, the National Institute of Health and the National Transplant Center — spoke in favor of allowing contacts. The bill in Parliament embodies their recommendations.

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A Letter to the Italian People, by Reg Green

(Press release sent to media on September  27, 2020)

As the 26th anniversary of the shooting death of my small son approaches (Nicholas Green, a seven-year old American boy on holiday in Italy was shot during an attempted robbery on September 29, 1994, died on October 1 and his organs and corneas were donated to seven people, four of them teenagers) Italy is on the verge of making the biggest change in how organ donor families and their recipients are treated since 1999.

      A group of legislators in Italy has introduced a bill to allow the two sides to write to each other, if both want to, and eventually meet.

    In an exchange of emails between Dr. Pierpaolo Sileri, the Deputy Minister of Health, and myself he today made this unambiguous statement of support for a change in the law. “The liberalization of the contacts between recipients and donor families is a deed of humanity and civilization, a right and proper act that must find its rightful position in a modification of the current legislation, the law 91/99. This battle can and must be driven forward“.

      In 2016 when I started this campaign with just one friend, Andrea Scarabelli from Rome, no one supported us. The opposition was so strong we called ourselves Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. 

     The dramatic change has happened because the media publicized our arguments and ordinary Italians saw the insensitivity, even cruelty, of the current law that effectively prevents the two sides in a transplant from knowing anything but the most basic facts about each other. Donor families don’t even know if their loved one’s recipients are still alive. Recipients can’t thank the people who rescued them when no one else could. Neither side can even send anonymous letters to the other, however much both want to.

(An article about the Letter to the Italians published by the Italian national newspaper ‘Il Corriere della Sera’)

     In 2016 the whole subject was taboo. Now people all over Italy are asking, ‘If two families with a bond as profound as this want to contact each other why should some bureaucrat be able to say no?’ Feelings like this (for example, one bereaved father, Marco Galbiati of Lecco collected 50,000 signatures calling for a change in the law when his 15-year old son, Ricky, died in 2017) and pressure from the media forced the National Transplant Center to refer the subject to the National Bioethics Committee. 

      But before proposing a change in the law committee members needed to see hard evidence, not just strong personal feelings. To them we sent data showing that in the United States tens of thousands of transplant families have written to each other and a minority of them have met. In the great majority of cases, the health authorities say, the results have helped the happiness and health of both sides. 

      After careful consideration, the Committee concluded that the liberalization of the communications was possible, on the lines we proposed, a huge breakthrough. Dr. Carlo Petrini, the National Institute of Health representative on the committee, later described the hard evidence we presented as “a major if not decisive” reason for their recommendation.

   That surprise decision has persuaded many other eminent names to support our cause.  Donor families may soon have the opportunity to end a lifetime of uncertainty by hearing directly from people whose lives they saved. 

     There is no feeling quite like contacting your loved one’s recipients: amazement that people whose lives were coming an end are now playing sports, starting careers and having babies, pride that you turned outward to help others when the pressure to turn inward in grief and despair was almost overwhelming and comfort that someone you loved has done so much to make the world a better place. I hope the bill will be passed with widespread support.”

Here is the full statement by Sen. Dr. Pierpaolo Sileri, Deputy Minister of Health in Italy:

  “The liberalization of the contacts between recipients and donor families is a deed of humanity and civilization, a right and proper act that must find its rightful position in a modification of the current legislation, the law 91/99. This battle can and must be driven forward, creating a structured system that, beyond the law, can guide recipients and donor families through their grief process. I want to thank once again Nicholas’ family who, without their faith in humanity and will to contribute to our emancipation as persons, wouldn’t have ever pursued the path of the gift and the campaign for a liberalization. It means having your neighbor at heart and waging a battle like Don Quixote, as Reg Green, Nicholas’ father, says in his own words. I know very well the battles against the windmills and I want to support in a productive way and manus legis (through the law) a modification of the 91/99 law – a law that by now is outdated/obsolete. Together we are stronger and more human, as Nicholas and his family taught us.”

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Manufacturers Fight the Virus in Unlikely Ways

The speed with which manufacturers, ranging from world’s largest corporations to boutiques, have adapted their production lines to turn out medical equipment to fight the coronavirus, has surprised laymen like me even in this most surprising of years. London-based 58 Gin, faced with the tight restrictions on bars, is using its reserves of alcohol to make hand sanitizer. Sharp, the Japanese electronics giant, is producing test kits. The Britain’s Royal Mint, instead of coins and precious metals, plans to make two million visors for medical personnel.

The Royal Mint has been producing more than 100,000 medical visors per week. (Photo by ‘The Independent’)

It reminds me that the boy who got Nicholas’ heart witnessed an even more magical adaptation. He was 15-year old Andrea Mongiardo of Rome. One of his doctors, Professor Stefano Marianeschi, now head of pediatric cardiac surgery at Niguarda hospital in Milan wrote to me to say that before the transplant Andrea was “struggling to survive, grossly under-nourished, only 27 kilos (60 lbs.) of body-weight and twice a week had to be admitted for albumin and calcium infusions.”

Happier days: Andrea, 7 years old, leader of the gang of four, with his cousins Valentina, Marta and Marco, all 5.

After the transplant and a period of recuperation, he lived a more or less normal life for 23 years. In time, he got a job and even played soccer. He told everyone he used to have a patched-up old jalopy inside him.  “Now,” he said, “I have a Ferrari.”  When he finally died in 2017, it was because of respiratory failure brought on by cancer. Nicholas’ heart, Andrea’s Ferrari, worked faithfully to the very end.

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