Category Archives: Stories

Indian girl (6) shot, parents donate organs

Dr. Deepak Gupta, Professor of Neurosurgery at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences at Delhi, who headed the team that transplanted the organs of six-year old, Rolly Prajapati, has added a comment to ‘An Illiterate Family in India Gives the Educated World a Lesson’ (please see this article on the blog on May 3, 2022.)

He says, “I hope there will be some official recognition of the extremely rare decision by her parents: organ donation rates in India are among the lowest in the world. If only the Prime Minister would honor the family for their willingness to put their acute grief on one side until after they put in motion the process that saved the lives of people they knew absolutely nothing about, it would act as a beacon to encourage many other families to follow suit. Meanwhile, every year thousands of Indians, many of them young, some of them infants, die when one donated organ could have saved them.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Stories, Useful tools

An Illiterate Family in India Gives the Educated World a Lesson

A mother and father in India, neither of whom can read or write and work wearisome hours for poverty wages, have just given the world’s educated a lesson in simple humanity. When their six-year old daughter, Rolly, was shot as she slept alongside her father, at whom the bullet was probably aimed,  Harnarayan Prajapati (39) and Poonam Devi (37) donated her organs to save other children. They had never heard of organ donation until Dr. Deepak Gupta, professor of neurosurgery at the AIIMS medical center in Delhi, who was in charge of her case, told them about it when Rolly was declared brain dead on April 29. They agreed because they did not want other families to face the bleakness that had enveloped them. Organ donation is almost non-existent in India where the grinding poverty of the great majority of families leaves little energy at the end of a day to think about anything other than the basic routines of living.

Rolly and siblings

Rolly is in the center with two of her five siblings, Karamveer on the left, Khushi on the right.

Even among the growing middle class, defined as those earning more than $25,000 in purchasing power comparable to the United States, organ donation is widely viewed as something unnatural. Even more than in other countries Indians fear that if they indicate they are willing to be donors, the doctors will not try as hard to save them when they are seriously injured. To all of them, the Prajapatis’ decision comes as a lesson that people in the most tragic situation need not turn inward in grief and despair but can transform life for multiple strangers. In rural India where rigid divisions are so traditional, the willingness to accept that the recipients can be of any caste is even more difficult. This small girl’s story should be a lesson to those who say they are in favor of organ donation but, like so many, are unwilling to go through with it when the decision is about one of their own family.

WhatsApp Image 2022-05-03 at 2.58.03 PM

Rolly’s parents, Hamarayan Prajapati and Poonam Devi

P.S. When I heard from Dr. Deepak Gupta about Rolly, I asked him to give this message to her mother and father. I offer it to any other family who has had to face the loss of a loved one.

To the family of little Rolly:

     I am the father of a seven-year old American boy, Nicholas Green. who was shot while we were on a family vacation in Italy and whose organs and corneas my wife, Maggie, and I donated to seven Italians, four of them teenagers. I am writing to you in hopes that I can offer a little solace for your crushing loss. For now, I expect that you can think of little else but how bleak and meaningless everything seems and how even the most routine task causes a stab in the heart because she is not with you. But in time I hope you will come to see how you have not simply transformed the lives of the recipients but how you have given inspiration to a world crying out for hope. You have given your daughter’s life a higher significance than  you could ever have foreseen. I imagine her saying: “I’m very proud of you.”

With great affection, Reg (and Maggie) Green

Leave a comment

Filed under Stories, Useful tools

The letter from the father of Nicholas Green: “My battle to allow contacts between the two sides in organ donation”

(Article by Reg Green published in ‘La Repubblica’, an Italian national newspaper. March 3, 2022)

When Dan and Shirley Mason. an American couple, met Inger Jessen, who when 55 years old had received the heart of their 18-year old daughter, Nicole, it was one of the most meaningful events of their lives. They all hugged, cried with joy and exchanged stories. They have become close friends.

The dramatic culmination of their first meeting was when the Masons heard through a stethoscope the steady beat of their daughter’s heart. “I couldn’t believe it,” Dan said later.  “Since Nikki was killed in a car accident twenty years ago, I think of her every day. She seems so far away. But here she was again.” Inger too was profoundly moved. “Since then,” she says, “I have felt a peace I haven’t known in years.”

     As the father of Nicholas Green, the seven-year old California boy who was shot in an attempted robbery on the Salerno to Reggio Calabria autostrada and whose organs and corneas my wife, Maggie, and I donated to seven very sick Italians, I share their view: the bonds we have forged with those seven have had a healing effect on all of us.

     On our side, we have been gratified to see how our son’s organs have transformed life for people who were once on the brink of death. To give just one example: Maria Pia Pedalà, the 19-year old Sicilian who received Nicholas’ liver had a baby four years after the transplant — an impossible happening beforehand. She called the baby Nicholas and in a family with a history of liver disease he is fit enough to have become a non-commissioned officer in the navy.

    On their side, the recipients can see we don’t hold it against them that they are living only because our son died — and that has freed them from the sense of guilt that many recipients carry with them for the rest their lives. Twenty-seven years after the transplants, five of the seven are still alive.

   But communication between organ donor families and their recipients is almost impossible in Italy under a law (91/99) that was passed more than twenty years ago because lawmakers feared that any contact, even if both sides want it, risks psychological damage. Even anonymous letters are forbidden!

     In the United States, however, tens of thousands of families have either met face to face or have written to each other and in the overwhelming majority of cases the happiness and health of both sides have improved. In fact every one of the 58 organ procurement organizations in the United States, that under the Department of Health look after both donors and recipients, encourages contact.

La Repubblica Facebook post - March 12 2022

The article had more than 16,000 likes on the Facebook page of the newspaper

     Of course, these contacts are planned in conjunction with the families’ medical advisers: finding each other through the Internet, as some Italian families do, is asking for trouble. Contact usually begins when one side writes anonymously to their transplant team, who scrutinize it to make sure there is no sign of risk, such as an overwrought family or one likely to make emotional demands on the other side. If the family receiving the letter does not want to write back, communication stops cold. If they want to reply, however, they do so, also anonymously, and the first family also has the option of continuing or breaking off the conversation there and then. After a while, however, both sides can reveal their identity if they wish and share their experiences as many thousands have.

     The result of all this care is that none of the morbid forecasts of things going wrong has happened on any scale. For example, I couldn’t uncover one case in America of a donor asking a recipient for money. Instead, imagine the thrill we had when a cousin of the 15-year old who received Nicholas’ heart told us that after the transplant he said to everyone he met, “I used to have a worn-out old jalopy for a heart. Now I have a Ferrari.”

     To this day in Italy when those who oppose liberalization are asked for proof of any significant numbers of things going wrong they are unable to provide them. Can things go wrong? Of course. But the thousands and thousands of medically documented cases where things went well in the US are evidence that the problems are extremely rare. I challenge opponents of change to show any statistics of problems.

     Despite all this, when I, with just one helper, Andrea Scarabelli in Rome, started a campaign in 2016 to liberalize contacts between the two sides in Italy we were so alone that we became known as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. But we sent the evidence we collected to every national organization involved in transplantation and, after studying it, all of them — the National Transplantation Center, the National Bioethics Committee and the National Institute of Health — have come out in favor of contact when it is done under authorized medical supervision and when both sides have clearly expressed a desire for it. Dr Pierpaolo Sileri, Deputy Minister of Health, has said firmly, “La liberalizzazione dei contatti tra riceventi e donatori è un gesto di umanità e civiltà, un atto doveroso”. I hope readers of this article will support the legislation that has been introduced to allow that to happen and relieve a lot of unhappiness in families who have performed one of the most selfless acts our society knows.

(Link to the article in Italian: https://www.repubblica.it/cronaca/2022/03/03/news/la_lettera_del_papa_di_nicholas_green_la_mia_battaglia_per_far_incontrare_chi_ha_donato_gli_organi-340120452/)

Author: Reg Green.

Leave a comment

Filed under In the news, Italia, Italy, Nicholas' story, Stories, Useful tools

Their Favorite Murder

Would you believe it? There’s a podcast called “My Favorite Murder” — and it is the sixth most-listened to podcast out of the thousands available. It focuses on true crime stories and the title, of course, is a way to catch attention: it evidently succeeds because Wikipedia estimates that last year it had 25 million downloads a month!

Recently they did a 13-minute segment on the killing of Nicholas and, despite the show’s title, they dealt with it responsibly and, except for some details, accurately.

screenshot podcast nicholas

They even asked listeners who had an interesting organ donation story to tell to contact them at myfavoritemurder@gmail.com. Write to them if you have such a story. If they use it you will have a huge audience, most of whom have never thought seriously about organ donation.

Here is the link:  https://myfavoritemurder.com/318-one-spiritual-moment/. Our story begins at the 17th minute (I’d skip the chit chat that goes on until then) and ends at the 30th.

Reg Green

Leave a comment

Filed under In the news, Nicholas' story, Stories

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/ 

Leave a comment

Filed under In the news, Stories, Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Nicholas' story, Stories, Useful tools

Organ Recipient Saves the Life of Woman Who Saved Hers. The story of Lisa Barker

In February 2014, a drunk driver in the American city of Lumberton, Texas, hit a car in which Dawn Sterling and her two daughters were riding. The adult daughter was pregnant and died instantly.  The other daughter, a 15-year-old, died of head injuries and was an organ donor.  Dawn was unconscious for over a month. She woke to find both her children and the expected grandchild gone. She recovered only to plan her suicide. “The very gifts that gave me life and purpose for the last twenty years were gone and I felt empty,” she says. At that point, she received a letter of such gratitude and hope from Lisa Barker, the 25-year old recipient of her daughter’s liver, that she could no longer face the thought of suicide. “Lisa saved my life,” she says. Dawn and her husband, Reid, have become close friends of Lisa and her family, who are planning to add to the good that came out of the transplant by adopting two children, siblings, from Ghana.

Few stories of the two sides communicating have such obvious momentous consequences as Dawn’s, which comes from Patricia Niles, CEO of Southwest Transplant Alliance, the organ procurement organization responsible to the US Government for organ donation in much of Texas and its 280 hospitals, one of which is Baylor, which recently delivered the first baby born in the US following a uterus transplant. “But the 58 American OPOs that cover every US state and work closely with many of the world’s best-known hospitals say that out of the tens of thousands of cases where both sides have communicated with each other, either by anonymous letter or face-to-face meetings, the results are helpful to both sides in the great majority of cases and in some cases dramatically so,” Reg Green says. “These communications also help boost organ donation rates because the two sides often decide to tell their stories in local schools, hospitals and churches so that other families will see for themselves how a simple decision can save multiple lives.”

Press release from Reg Green (first published in December 2017)

Leave a comment

Filed under Stories, Useful tools

A Proven Healing Experience For Bereaved Families

Four-year old Grant Thompson plays with Micki Parker, whose daughter Addie died when she too was four years old from complications of juvenile diabetes. Addie’s organs were donated and her liver saved Grant’s life. Says Micki: “I wanted to know everything about her recipients: did they like pets, were they funny like Addie was, did they like to snuggle up to their Mom after bath-time? Grant’s parents wanted to meet me too and reached out first. Amazingly, I was able to meet him in what was one of the most fulfilling events of my life. Knowing he is so healthy and happy has helped me deal better with the pain of losing Addie.”

(Photo by Alexa Citro)

In the United States communication between the two sides under the supervision of the patients’ medical advisers is strongly encouraged because it is therapeutic for both sides in the large majority of cases. Communication can be anything from the exchange of anonymous letters to face-to-face meetings,

The meeting was arranged by the Donor Network of Arizona, the organization chosen by the US Government to oversee organ donation throughout the state of Arizona.

Leave a comment

Filed under Stories, Useful tools

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

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under In the news, Italia, Italy, Stories

His Heart Saved the Life of His Baseball Idol

When baseball legend Rod Carew visited Konrad Reuland’s middle school to watch a basketball game, the teenager could talk of nothing else to his family that night. Fifteen years later Konrad’s heart saved Rod’s life.

By then Konrad had become a public figure too, an NFL tight end — he had played for the New York Jets and the Baltimore Ravens — and by all accounts was in the best shape of his life. But, like so many other healthy people, he was hit without warning by an aneurysm in December when he was 29 and, despite a 17-hour operation, became brain dead. His parents donated his organs, saving the lives of some very sick people, all unknown to them.

One, it turned out, was Rod Carew, who had developed heart failure after a massive heart attack in 2015, and it was Konrad’s mother, Mary, who figured it out after friends wondered aloud if he could have been Carew’s donor.

All she knew was that the heart came from a 29-year old who lived in Southern California but it was enough for her to ask question after question until she found out what she could scarcely believe: that part of her son was keeping alive a man he had idolized. Carew, now 71, was an icon to millions: the Hall of Fame Minneapolis Twins first baseman who was a seven-time American League batting champion and who stole more bases in one season than anyone in history except Ty Cobb.

At the time of Konrad’s death, however, he was a man struggling to stay alive, the only possible cure being a donated heart. Given the severity of his condition, the need for the new heart to be compatible with his own and the chronic scarcity of families willing to donate the heart of a loved one who has just died, the chances were dauntingly small.

But there is always a trickle of families like the Reulands and Rod has recovered strongly in both body and spirits. I met him at one of the press conferences that in recent days the two families have held jointly to promote good heart health and draw attention to the power of every organ donation to transform the world for multiple people.  Asked whether having a heart that belonged to someone else gave him any physical problems he said simply, “No. I never think about it.”

At this press conference, held appropriately at the Little League stadium in Encino, California, I asked the two sides if meeting each other was beneficial. Neither hesitated. “Absolutely,” said Mary and Rhonda, Rod’s wife, added, “We feel we have known each other all our lives.” The Carews are profoundly grateful to the Reulands and the Reulands are comforted that Konrad’s decision to say ‘yes’ to organ donation, when he renewed his driver’s license a few months earlier, has saved the life of such a revered man.

More broadly, just as donating an organ gives solace to almost everyone who does it, Mary commented, “Knowing a piece of my baby is still down here on earth is a great comfort.” I had to fight back the tears. To call a 6-foot-6, 270-pound football player a baby in public takes boundless love and almost unbearable pain.

Leave a comment

Filed under Stories, Uncategorized