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In the news: “Transplants, that gift from Nicholas’ and Rolly’s parents that saved lives” (from ‘Il Corriere della Sera’)

Author: Maria Giovanna Faiella.

Date: September 30, 2022

The stories of children, struck by a tragic fate, will be told where organ donation is almost non-existent. In Italy, 28% still oppose donations.

The story shook the conscience of Italians. Nicholas Green, the 7-year-old American boy on vacation in Italy with his family, was shot to death from a bullet on the Salerno Reggio Calabria highway, 28 years ago: thanks to his parents decision to donate his organs and corneas, five people were saved and sight was restored to two others. The gesture prompted many compatriots to follow the example of the Greens: donations, therefore transplants, increased and lives were saved.

Last April, Rolly Prajapati, a six-year-old Indian girl, was killed in a shooting: her parents also decided to donate organs. Nicholas’ and Rolly’s families have turned their personal tragedy into a generous act of solidarity with people, unknown to them, waiting for a new organ. Now, with a new campaign to increase organ donation which starts in Messina on October 1st, the hope is that the Nicholas effect will be repeated in the poorest countries in the world — but also in developed ones, including Italy, where every day someone on the waiting list dies.

Rome press conference

The speakers of the press conference

Love for Italy reciprocated

Reginald Green, Nicholas’ father, returned to Italy to support the new campaign: it will start on the same date (October 1) and in the same hospital where Nicholas died; this time the story of a little Indian girl will help tell the world that what distinguishes the life of an organ donor is not the sudden calamity that caused his death, but the new life that it has generated, and the hope of a better world that follows. Nicholas – remembers moved Reginald Green, now 93 – loved Italy and although he was only seven, we had already brought him here three times. “Since his death, Italy has repaid that love of him many times, including over a hundred places named after him. Even more, the love of Italy was revealed in a practical way: in the ten years following his death, organ donation rates tripled. Understanding the strength of that reaction is crucial to our new campaign which will be similar to the one that focused on Nicholas and which was so successful in Italy, but this time it will include Rolly. We will tell their stories in places in the world where organ donation is almost non-existent and where, every year, hundreds of thousands of people die while they could be saved by transplanting new organs if they were donated.”

Replicate the Nicholas effect

With the pandemic, donation rates have dropped around the world – explains Professor Deepak Gupta, a neurosurgeon at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, who coordinated Rolly Prajapati’s organ donation. In India, where organ donations are very few and pediatric ones are almost unknown, thanks to the media attention for the story of Rolly, whose organs have saved other children, donations increased from April to August by over 60%. The hope is that the Nicholas Effect – which has driven the increase in donations in Italy – will be repeated in the poorest countries in the world but also in the areas lagging behind with donations, including some Italian regions.

There are those who still oppose it

“In Italy, at the beginning of the pandemic there was a decline in donations and transplants. Last year there was a recovery, with an increase of more than 10 percent compared to 2020, and donations also increased by 6%”, says Letizia Lombardini, medical director of the National Transplant Center. In our country too, the availability of donated organs is still lower than needed. “Last year there were over 8,000 people on the waiting list for a transplant”, Lombardini reports. In our country, the opposition rate to donations averaged 28 percent. In addition to the refusal to remove the organs made by the relatives of the deceased person, they also registered too many “no” responses to donation at the time of issue or renewal of the identity card. Dr. Lombardini reports: “In 2021, out of 5 million Italians who renewed their identity cards, 3 million expressed their willingness to donate organs, several said “no”, others still did not express themselves.”

International conference

The organ donation awareness campaign starts in Messina where the first edition of the International Conference will be held on 1 and 2 October (DONARTE 2022 – DOnation and Art: Nicholas And Rolly Testimonials.)
“Sicily is at the bottom of the national donor ranking. There are just 11 donors per million inhabitants (compared to a national average of 24), while the opposition rate (people opposing donation) is over 40 percent” – the director of the anesthesia complex operating unit of the “Martino” Polyclinic of Messina, Anna Teresa Mazzeo said. “The awareness of citizens is fundamental, which must go hand in hand with the training of health personnel”.

Originally published in “Il Corriere della Sera” newspaper. Link: https://www.corriere.it/salute/22_settembre_30/trapianti-dono-genitori-piccoli-nicholas-green-rolly-prajapati-04b36fa4-4096-11ed-8b65-55aa2f703574.shtml

This English version is adapted from: https://time.news/transplants-that-gift-from-nicholas-and-rollys-parents-that-saved-lives-time-news/

 

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Organ Donations Set a Record at India’s Biggest Hospital

    In April of this year Dr. Deepak Gupta, professor of neurosurgery at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi, coordinated the organ donation of a six-year old girl, Rolly Prajapati, who was shot while sleeping next to her parents at her home in Noida. The circumstances were close to the shooting of my own seven-year old son, Nicholas Green, while we were on a family holiday in Italy from our home in California. In the following 10 years organ donation rates in Italy tripled, a phenomenon that is known there as “the Nicholas Effect.” (nicholasgreen.org)

Donarte 2022

From left to right: Dr. Antonio David (Dean of Messina University), Dr. Deepak Gupta, Reg Green and Dr. Anna Teresa Mazzeo at Donarte Conference, Messina, October 2022

    A striking change has shown itself in India too. Since Rolly’s death, the number of organ donations at AIIMS Delhi has risen to 13, higher in those five months than for any full year since the transplant program there began in 1994. The 3,200 bed hospital usually has five to eight donations in a full year.

    The donations since Rolly’s death have yielded 43 life-saving organs and 26 tissues, such as corneas to restore sight and heart valves to cure children born with congenital heart diseases. One of the donations was from the youngest child ever transplanted in India. This rapid rise is already being talked about as “the Rolly Effect.”

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Maria Pia, Dying at 19, Is Now a Radiant 47-Year Old

She is 47, lives in Sicily and likes true stories with happy endings. That’s understandable. She was on her deathbed when she was 19.

Her name is Maria Pia Pedala and she was saved from a seemingly inevitable death by a liver transplant. When I met her a few months later she already looked full of good health. Her way back continued so well that in two years she married her loyal sweetheart, Salvatore, and four years after the transplant had a baby boy and two years after that a girl, two whole lives that would never have been.

Maria Pia Pedalà and Reg Green

Maria Pia Pedalà and Reg Green at Donarte Conference, October 2022. Photo by Andrea Scarabelli

     All this was a long time ago — she received her new liver in 1994 — but recently, back in Sicily for a few days, I chatted with her just before she gave a speech promoting organ donation at Donarte 2022, an international conference on transplantation at the University of Messina, and I could see in her the prototype of a busy matronly housewife, who gets up by 5.30 am daily, keeps the house clean and tidy, gardens, cooks and deals with all the other needs of a loving family.

She watches her health carefully, goes to bed early, eats sensibly and takes her medications meticulously, feeling she has an obligation to both the healthcare staff who have kept watch over her from her teenage to middle years and to the family who saved her life.

The result is she can do everything normal people of her age can do and in a line-up no one would pick her out as the one who had been the sickest. She also finds a preciousness in the small things in life that eludes most people.

Transplantation is a medical miracle and, even though it is an everyday procedure in hospitals all over the world, it doesn’t stop being a miracle that physicians can take a body part of someone who has died, put it into the body of someone who is dying and bring out of it a healthy person.

In this case, for my family, the story has an element in it that takes it to a higher level still: our son was her donor.

Author:  Reg Green

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From “La Stampa” Italian newspaper

“La Stampa”, a national Italian newspaper edited in Turin, just published the article “Organ Donation Group Comforts Families Who Didn’t Donate” by Reg Green, on Friday 15th.

La stampa article - July 15 2022

Article title: “Another beautiful deed after 28 years”

Link to the article in English in this blog: https://nicholaseffect.org/2022/07/01/organ-donation-group-comforts-families-who-didnt-donate/

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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.

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Jamie Lee Curtis talks of “Nicholas’ Gift” on her Instagram page (January 13 2022)

Jamie Lee Curtis, who played my wife, Maggie, in an almost forgotten  television movie about organ donation, once told me she was as proud of her performance in it as she was of anything else in her career. This week on her Instagram page she said the subject was  “haunting, honoring and humbling.”

JLC Instagram January 2022 V4

The movie is Nicholas’ Gift, a true story, and in it she plays the mother of our seven-year old son, Nicholas, whose organs and corneas we donated after he was shot in an attempted robbery during a family vacation in Italy in 1994.  I don’t see how anyone could watch it and remain indifferent to organ donation.

recipients 1

The seven recipients two years after their transplant with the Greens and their three children. Left to right standing: Reg and Maggie Green; Andrea Mongiardo (heart); Francesco Mondello (cornea); Tino Motta (kidney); Anna Maria di Ceglie (kidney); Eleanor Green. Sitting: Laura Green, Maria Pia Pedala (liver), Domenica Galletta (cornea), Silvia Ciampi (pancreas cells), Martin Green. Photo included here by permission of Oggi magazine, Italy

Given that she has starred in a variety of blockbuster movies in the last forty years and amassed a string of awards — most recently the top Lifetime Achievement Award at the Venice Film Festival in September 2021 — her assessment is an extraordinary comment on a movie that is rarely-mentioned nowadays in the United States, although it has been seen by 100 million viewers worldwide.

Reg Green

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