Category Archives: In the news

My son died in 1994 but his heart only stopped beating this year

Article by Harry Low – BBC

May 2017

Link to the complete article: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-39422660 

Link to the Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/bbcnews/posts/10154643441412217

Link to BBC Mundo – Spanish: http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-39815787

Link to BBC Brazil – Portuguese: http://www.bbc.com/portuguese/geral-39818220

 

 

 

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“How ‘The Nicholas Effect’ changed (in better) the history of transplants”

Article published on “Il Corriere della Sera” (Italy)

corriere-della-sera-9-2-2017

To read the complete article, go to:

http://www.corriere.it/salute/17_febbraio_09/cosi-l-effetto-nicholas-ha-cambiato-in-meglio-storia-trapianti-5cbd3fe6-eeb6-11e6-b691-ec49635e90c8.shtml

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The final beat of Nicholas Green’s heart of gold

The boy who received my son’s heart died Tuesday, although he wasn’t really a boy any longer. He was 37 years old. But when my 7-year old son, Nicholas, was shot in an attempted carjacking on a family vacation in Italy, Andrea Mongiardo was just 15.

At the hospital in Sicily, my wife, Maggie, and I decided to donate Nicholas’ organs and corneas for transplant. They went to seven very sick Italians, four of them teenagers.

Perhaps the most agonizing feature of being on a transplant waiting list is that patients can do nothing at all to influence if and when a new organ becomes available. Their future depends entirely on whether a family they have never met is willing to put its own mourning aside to help total strangers.

When Maggie and I were told that Nicholas had no brain activity, it was she who said, in her usual thoughtful way, “Shouldn’t we donate his organs?” We had no sense of what the outcome would be, who could be saved, what they would be like. But we realized we could squeeze some good from what was otherwise just a meaningless act of violence.

What we couldn’t have guessed was how much good: News of our decision spread like wildfire and so galvanized Italy that in the next 10 years organ donation rates there tripled, an increase no other country came close to. As a result, thousands of people are alive who would have died.

Some of Nicholas’ recipients were very close to death. One was a diabetic who was almost blind, couldn’t walk without help and was dependent on others. After receiving Nicholas’ pancreas cells, she moved into an apartment of her own for the first time in her life.

A 19-year-old got Nicholas’ liver. The day he died, she was in a coma. She bounced back to health, married her childhood sweetheart a year later, and a year after that they had a baby boy, whom they named Nicholas. He is now a tall, handsome young man with no trace of the liver weakness that has dogged his family.

Andrea took longer to heal. He had been sick for so long that his strength was undermined and, whereas the other six were soon back in circulation, he only slowly came back to full health. But when he did, it was for real. He got a job, played soccer, lived more normally than he had ever been able to growing up.

And that is how things stood until we got an email on Tuesday. “His heart was still functioning,” Andrea’s longtime doctor told us, “but the lungs were fibrotic because of drug toxicity related to chemotherapy treatment received three years ago after diagnosis of lymphoma. The final cause of death was respiratory failure.”

It was deflating, like the loss of a young nephew you never dreamed would go before you did. But we don’t feel as if Nicholas died all over again, as some doctors fear will happen to donor families. And, of course, we still have no regrets about the decision we took in 1994.

When the Italian media first asked Maggie how she felt about our son’s heart being transplanted into another boy’s chest, she said: “I always hoped Nicholas would have a long life. Now I hope his heart has a long life.”

Sadly, Nicholas’ heart didn’t reach old age. It did, however, perform nobly for three decades. I’m not surprised: I always knew it was pure gold.

What we couldn’t have guessed was how much good: News of our decision spread like wildfire and so galvanized Italy that in the next 10 years organ donation rates there tripled, an increase no other country came close to. As a result, thousands of people are alive who would have died.

Some of Nicholas’ recipients were very close to death. One was a diabetic who was almost blind, couldn’t walk without help and was dependent on others. After receiving Nicholas’ pancreas cells, she moved into an apartment of her own for the first time in her life.

A 19-year-old got Nicholas’ liver. The day he died, she was in a coma. She bounced back to health, married her childhood sweetheart a year later, and a year after that they had a baby boy, whom they named Nicholas. He is now a tall, handsome young man with no trace of the liver weakness that has dogged his family.

Andrea took longer to heal. He had been sick for so long that his strength was undermined and, whereas the other six were soon back in circulation, he only slowly came back to full health. But when he did, it was for real. He got a job, played soccer, lived more normally than he had ever been able to growing up.

And that is how things stood until we got an email on Tuesday. “His heart was still functioning,” Andrea’s longtime doctor told us, “but the lungs were fibrotic because of drug toxicity related to chemotherapy treatment received three years ago after diagnosis of lymphoma. The final cause of death was respiratory failure.”

It was deflating, like the loss of a young nephew you never dreamed would go before you did. But we don’t feel as if Nicholas died all over again, as some doctors fear will happen to donor families. And, of course, we still have no regrets about the decision we took in 1994.

When the Italian media first asked Maggie how she felt about our son’s heart being transplanted into another boy’s chest, she said: “I always hoped Nicholas would have a long life. Now I hope his heart has a long life.”

Sadly, Nicholas’ heart didn’t reach old age. It did, however, perform nobly for three decades. I’m not surprised: I always knew it was pure gold.

Published on The Los Angeles Times.  
February 13, 2017

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Emotional Upsurge for Italian Earthquake Victims has one Precedent: Death of a Small American Boy

The recent devastating earthquake in Italy caused an enormous increase in blood donations. Searching for a parallel, the highly-respected health writer, Margherita De Bac, could only find one: an organ donation story. Here is an excerpt from her article in Italy’s largest newspaper, Corriere della Sera.

Earthquake, the Amatrice Effect, thousands of blood donors.

“The emotion after the earthquake brought a huge number of volunteers to the blood transfusion centers. Now the people in charge of such donations hope that the solidarity does not end. It has been called ‘The Amatrice Effect’. Thousands of blood units were donated by citizens to help the victims of the shock that crumbled towns between Lazio, Abruzzo, Umbria and Marche regions. There has never been such an immediate and spontaneous response [from blood donors.] The same thing happened in 1994, when the death of Nicholas Green, the American child killed along the Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway when he was traveling with his parents, moved the consciences of the Italian people about the problem of transplants…….. Sometimes emotion is worth one thousand campaigns of awareness.”

[After Nicholas’ organs were donated, donations in Italy increased every year for the next 10 years, until they were three times as high as before he was killed.]

Link to the article: http://www.corriere.it/salute/16_agosto_29/terremoto-effetto-amatrice-d5eae0fc-6e06-11e6-8bf4-ee6b05dcd2d0.shtml

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Bike Race

On organ donation day in Italy (May 29), a cycling team led by Francesco Avanzini, a 62 year-old man who had a kidney transplant 29 years ago, cycled the very tough 50 kilometers, along the glorious coast from Sestri Levante to Genoa. It was like many other activities for organ donation that day but for me it had not one, not two, but three special features. First, I have become friends with Francesco and have seen a degree of moral courage in him that matches the physical courage he needed to stay alive. Second, the race went close to the very first place I stayed in Italy 65 (!) years ago when I had saved enough money to go abroad for the first time. And third could I, as a young man, have ever imagined on that first visit that a race would one day pass this way that would end at a bridge named for my own son?

genoa bridge sign

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“Nicholas has grown and lives in me”

“Nicholas has grown and lives in me”

 The touching meeting between the father of Nicholas Green, the child killed along the Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway in 1994, and the woman who received the liver of the child. “At night, when I lift my eyes to the sky and see the brightest star, I know he is there. He is my guardian angel.”

Visto - Feb 19 2016 - part 1

(Visto magazine – February 19, 2016)

“The day Nicholas died, October 1st 1994, Maria Pia was only 19 years old and she was dying. Only a transplant could save her. Looking at her now, a vigorous mother of two lovely children and wife to a loving husband, tears come to my eyes thinking that, if my wife Maggie and I had made a different decision that day, nothing of this would be possible. If we hadn’t helped her and the others, I know we would never have forgiven ourselves”. Twentyone years have passed since Maria Pia Pedalà, in her final hepatic coma in a hospital bed, was saved at the very last moment by a liver transplant: the donor of the organ and of a new life was an American child, Nicholas Green, only seven years old, who was vacationing with his family in Italy and was declared brain dead after having been shot on September 29 1994 by two robbers along Salerno-Reggio Calabria Highway .

Since then, Maria Pia Pedalà has kept in touch from time to time with Nicholas’ parents whose deed of love gave a new life to her and to other three teenagers and an adult, and also sight to two more people thanks to the donation of the kidneys, liver, heart, corneas and pancreas cells. Since then, Nicholas’ father comes to Italy every year – where more than 100 places including streets, schools, parks, squares have been named for the little Green child. The most recent visit took place on February 3rd, on occasion of a conference on organ donation organized in Palermo at the Mediterranean Institute for Transplants and Special Treatments (ISMETT). And right here in Palermo, Green met Maria Pia Pedalà again. Over these years she married and had two children, Alessia, 15 years old, and Nicholas, 17, who got his name to honor her mother’s donor.

“Every meeting with the Greens is a unique emotion for me: I feel a shiver running down my back” Maria Pia explains. “His hug is something you cannot explain, like that of a father to a son: there is something indissoluble that ties me to him because Nicholas lives in me.

Q: Maria Pia, many years passed from the transplant that saved your life. What do you remember of those days?

A: I was 19 and during those last two months I had been suffering stomach ache and nausea – I entered and exited emergency rooms at hospitals not knowing the cause, until one day the pains were so strong that I was urgently hospitalized, suffering high temperature and jaundice. The day after I fell into a coma: a silent and sudden hepatitis was making me die. I was moved to Rome in an Air Force plane and I was in very serious condition. A few days later the doctors told my relatives that an organ was available. My state was so terrible that my relatives were reluctant, fearing to worsen my ordeal. But the doctors insisted that I had to undergo surgery: not only the organ worked perfectly, but after 21 years I am still here.”

Visto - Feb 19 2016 - part 2

Q: when did you discover that your donor was a child only seven years old?

R: I remained in the intensive care unit for a couple of weeks and then I was moved to the ward where they gave me a newspaper: it talked of an angel who had come from a far place and saved seven people. I burst into tears, I felt guilty thinking that a child had died and I was alive instead. It is a feeling that I had very often, until the day that together with the other six recipients I had the opportunity to meet those wonderful parents: Maggie made me understand that their choice had been a choice of love, that the donation had helped them to contain their sorrow. All over these years we have always kept in touch, meeting each other when possible, otherwise through emails.”

Q: You are a mum now: how did you explain your story to your children?

A: “Since October 2nd 1994 Nicholas is part of me, therefore there was no need to explain anything.

They heard me talking of Nicholas since they were born, also because I have a photo of him in my house, the last one before he was killed, that Reginald and Maggie gave me. Besides the photo I placed a toy soldier with which Nicholas played: during the first meeting with all the recipients, Reginald gave one of them to each recipient, and since then I have been looking after it with love. To me Nicholas is my angel: when at night I lift my eyes to the sky and see the brightest star, I think ‘there he is’. Nicholas has grown with me, and it is as if I have two ages: 40 years, my birth age and then 28, the age he will be today.”

Q: Have you ever been in California, where Nicholas is buried?

A: “Yes, and it was an incredible emotion. I went there with my family on the 10th anniversary since Nicholas had died, in 2004, and I took there a bell made in my hometown, San Fratello. Nicholas was buried in a catholic church in Bodega Bay, a small village 60 miles north of San Francisco where the Greens lived before moving to Los Angeles. Nicholas loved the sound of bells and that’s why his parents built a monument, The Children’s Bell Tower, made with 140 bells sent by families from many parts of the world, mostly from Italy; the central bell was blessed by Pope John Paul II.

Q: How is your life after the transplant?

A: I live a very regular life, I don’t smoke, don’t drink, I am careful about what I eat, and I have never had problems. For many years I have taken immunosuppressant medicines, as the procedure requires, but I have been pregnant two times and everything went well. On the other hand my transplant took place on October 2nd, the day dedicated to the guardian angels and I think I have some very special guardian angels: I lost my mother when I was 12, and I lost a brother when I was a child. I suffered loneliness, but a year after the transplant I married my husband Salvatore and I welcome every day of my life as a gift”.

Q: Also thanks to Nicholas and the decision of the Greens, organ donations in Italy started to grow. Until then our Country was at the very bottom in Europe: how is the situation in your region now?

A: “In Sicily there is the ISMETT, a center of excellence as for transplants, and a culture of donation is more and more widespread. As for me, everytime I can, I go to schools to tell my story to the children to let them know what organ donation is. And everytime, they always ask me about Nicholas: his memory is alive now as it was twenty years ago and I am more than certain that people will keep talking of this angel for a long time.”

Article published on Visto magazine (Italy), February 19, 2016.

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From Russia

The ripples from Nicholas’ death continue to spread even after 21 years: here is an article from a Russian publication, which includes a photo of his seven recipients and the five members of the Green family taken two years after the transplants. Russian organ donation rates are very low and many people are repelled by the idea. Personal stories like this, showing the tremendous results of a single donation, can have a considerable impact.

Published on March 2016

Link: http://dislife.ru/materials/7

 

dislife russian magazine

 

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