Sunday, 7 May 2017

What A Legacy

In the past few months, one of my friends has become a kidney donor. She does not know who received it, and she seems to be managing very well with the one she has left. I admire her generosity and her courage. Not sure I could do it [read about the process here] Six weeks ago, another friend received a kidney- he is making a really good recovery, and is so grateful. Chris knows that his donor came from someone who was on Life Support - that person's family made the brave decision, in their time of bereavement, to help others. I met Chris in town on Thursday, and then came home and read a story on the BBC website about organ donation which moved me deeply. It seemed worth sharing here...

23 years ago, the Green family were on holiday in Southern Italy - Roger, wife Maggie, and children Nicholas 7, and Eleanor 4. One evening, as they were driving along in the dark, a car drew alongside, and angry men inside shouted at them to stop. Fearing that these were robbers Roger accelerated. Bullets shattered the car windows - and then the robbers car drove away. Initially Roger thought all the family were OK -but Nicholas had been shot in the head. He was in a coma and died a few days later- but his parents decided there, in the Italian hospital to donate his organs. Seven people had their lives changed by that decision
Here is a photo taken two years later of the family with those who received Nicholas' organs. After Nicholas' death, Maggie went on to have twins, also in the picture.
Back Row, left to right, Reg & Maggie Green, Andrea Mongiardo [heart] Francesco Mondello [Cornea], Tino Motta [KKidney] Ana Maria Di Ceglie [Kidney] Eleanor Green. Seated; Laura Green, Maria Pia Pedala [Liver] Domenica Galleta [Cprnea] Silvia Ciampi [Pancreas]
This would have been a great story - seven lives changed - but it is so much more than that. Nobody was really sure why the shooting happened- police suspect some sort of mafia mix up. The Italians were ashamed, they love children. 
Organ donation at that time was quite unusual - 6 million in 1993, the year before - but afterwards, the figure shot up, and by 2006 was over 20 million donations per annum. Furthermore, the nation has adopted an 'opt out' system. Unless you state otherwise, it is presumed your organs will be donated on your death, if at all possible [the US and UK still have the opt-in system] The Italians call this change in attitude l'effeto Nicholas -  the Nicholas Effect. 
If you go to Italy now, you will find there are more than 120 places named in Nicholas's honour:
  • 50 squares and streets
  • 27 parks and gardens
  • 27 schools
  • 16 other monuments and installations, including a lemon tree, a bridge and an amphitheatre
Reg was amazed when the recipients came together to meet the family - Nothing could have prepared him for the moment he came face-to-face with those people whose lives were saved by receiving Nicholas's organs. "When the doors opened and they walked in, the effect was overwhelming," he says… "Some were smiling, some were tearful, others were bashful but they were all alive. Most of these people had been on the point of death. That's when it hit you for the first time, just how big a thing this was. There was also a sense of how the parents and grandparents would have been devastated. You got the feeling there were many more people involved whose lives would have been much poorer if we hadn't saved them."

Earlier this year, Andrea Mongiardo died - but he had Nicholas' heart three times longer than Reg's son. Reg returns to Italy twice a year to promote organ donation - and most recently met up again with Maria, who received his son's liver. 
She was in a coma on 1994 and had been expected to die, but after the transplant she recovered. She later married, and had two children - the first was a boy, and she called him Nicholas. Maria and Reg made a TV programme about transplants.

After Andrea's death recently, Reg said "My son died in 1994, but his heart only stopped beating this year" He went on to say "Nicholas was a kindly boy who always looked for the best in things ... I know that at seven years old he probably wouldn't have been able to comprehend but, I know, as he grew up this is just what he would have wanted us to do - there's no doubt about that. If the choice was between being angry at the people who did it and wanting to help somebody else as the first priority, he would have undoubtedly chosen helping somebody out."
Thousands of people in Italy are now alive who would otherwise have died, if not for l'effeto Nicholas.
What a legacy. 
What a generous father.


  1. A very touching & inspiring story. I am not allowed to give blood here in France, but they will take my organs - crazy! I am VERY proud of my nephew who has donated his bone marrow - not, I believe, a pleasant operation - and has saved a life. I tell Mr FD that even if he had specifically requested that his organs weren't donated (which he hasn't!) I would ignore him. I hope every possible bit of me will be used!

  2. What an absolutely moving and heart-lifting story. Out of such sorrow and loss of life, something to give so many other the chance to live and be well, and not just that but that organ donation in Italy increased amazingly. It is a truly wonderful story, thank you for posting it. Regards Sue H.

  3. That is an Amazing story which has made me shed tears here on my train! Thank you so much for sharing!!x


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