As his family’s month-long vacation to Italy approached, seven year-old Nicholas Green became increasingly excited about the trip. The rosy-cheeked second grader devoured books on Roman history. He announced that Julius Caesar was his new hero. Nicholas showed great interest in the Greek and Roman myths that his mother, Maggie, read to him, particularly the one about Persephone. She was the young goddess kidnapped by the King of the Underworld but, because of her mothers grief allowed to return to earth for a few months each year.
The idea of a sad little person below the ground and the joy of coming back again, he seemed to get the idea of rebirth in an adult way” recalled his father Reginal Green. For the Green family the tale would soon seem bitterly poignant. On September 29, 1994, as the Greens from Bodega Bay, California drove at night along a desolate highway in southern Italy with Nicholas and his little sister, Eleanor; a small light colored car overtook them. Two men inside, their faces hidden by kerchiefs houted in Italian and gestured for Reginal Green to pull over.
When Green fearing for his family, didn’t, the men open fire. Little Nicholas, who was sleeping on the back seat, was struck in the head with a bullet. He died in the hospital two days later. As a nation, all of Italy was horrified by the crime then deeply moved by the Greens unexpected response. Rather than reacting with justifiable bitterness, Reginal and Maggie Green donated their son’s organs to seven Italians. If this were your child what would you do?
Organ and tissue transplantation is one of this century’s medical triumphs. It has become a routine practice that can dramatically improve and save the lives of those suffering from vital organ failure, or those suffering from bone defects, burns and blindness. Since the first successful transplant of a human heart over 40 years ago, the demand for organs has greatly exceeded the supply. About 40,000 Americans are awaiting organ donations, but fewer than half will get them.
One of the weak links in the U. S organ transplant system is the large and growing gap between the number of people seeking transplant surgery and the number of available organs. An estimated nine Americans a day die while waiting for a transplant. But you could help. Anyone can be an organ donor. Just by making your wishes known to your family, you can become an organ and tissue donor. Old age or a history of disease does not mean you can’t donate. Organ and tissue that can’t be used for transplants can often be used to help scientists find cures for serious illness. Many organs and tissues can be donated.
The heart, lungs, kidneys, and pancreas as well as corneas, bone, shin heart valves, and blood vessels are some of the organs and tissues that can be used to help improve the quality of life for people needing transplants and other surgical procedures. Signing a donor card will not affect the care you receive at the hospital. If you are injured and brought to an emergency room, you will receive the best possible care, whether or not you are an organ donor. The organ transplant system is fair. The distribution of donated organs allows equal access for all patients awaiting a transplant in the United States.
The national Transplant Act mandated the establishment of a national computer system for organ sharing that is based on the need availability. Major religions support organ and tissue donation. Many faiths openly encourage it, seeing this as a final act of giving. The act of giving is exactly what the Greens did by donating Nicholas’ organs. “His future was taken away from him. We thought it was very important to give his future to someone who had lost theirs” said Reginal Green. In the days following Nicholas’ death, organ donation in Italy increased 400 percent.
The Country’s Consul General told the Green family, ” You made a miracle. For seven very fortunate Italians, the Greens gift may mean just that. Nicholas’ liver when to a 19-year old Sicilian woman who was within 48 hours of death. . “We’d given up on her,” said her Doctor”She is now a vivacious beauty who turns heads as she walks down the street. ” An 11-year-old boy and 14 -year-old girl each received one of Nichols’ kidneys. A 30-year-old mother with diabetes got islet cells from Nicholas’ pancreas to help her body produce insulin. The man who received one of Nicholas’ corneas said that at one time he was unable to see his children.
Now after the operation, he happily watches his son and daughter play. But the recipient most in need of a transplant was the 60-pound 15-year-old boy who received Nicholas’ heart. This boy who had spent half his life in hospitals; is now a relentless bundle of energy. In a letter to the Journal of American Medicine Reginal Green wrote ” Donating Nicholas organs, then, wasn’t a particularly noble act. But not to have given them would have seemed to us such a waste that we don’t believe we could have thought of it later without a sense of shame.
The future of a radiant little creature had been taken away. It was important to us that someone else should have that future. ” Reginal Green goes on to say ” I don’t believe Maggie and I will ever really be happy again, even our best moments are tinged with sadness. ” “But the joy in seeing so much life that otherwise have been lost, and the relieve on the families faces, is so uplifting that it has given us some compensation for what otherwise would have been just a random act of violence. ”
The most precious gift you can give someone is the gift of life itself. I’m sure most have heard this saying before that is exactly what you do when you become an organ and tissue donor. Yet the simple truth is that there is not enough people who are making this life giving choice. Every year more and more children and adults are forced to wait and hope for a chance to live a normal healthy life. But you can help, when you make the decision to become an organ donor you are providing mothers, fathers, sons and daughters with a second chance for a normal healthy life.