The decision to donate son’s organs
Despite the horrific tragedy, Nicholas’ parents made the decision to donate their son’s organs and corneas in the country that had taken away his life, benefitting seven Italians in total. Four of the recipients were from Sicily and the group also eventually met up with Nicholas’ parents, a few months after the incident.
His parents talked openly to the media, turning their decision into a catalyst that would triple Italy’s organ donation rate in a decade. Only 23 years later did Nicholas’ heart stop beating, or three times longer than Nicholas’ age when he died.
The heart recipient was a then 15-year-old who has had five cardiac operations, all of which failed, and he was also receiving blood transfusions twice a week. Amazingly, his doctor said that the heart was still functioning when he died, adding that he died of respiratory failure as his lungs were fibrotic due to drug toxicity from chemotherapy treatment.
The Green family’s holiday tragedy has unfolded a series of events never seen before in the country and in the world – opening up people’s hearts and minds about organ donation. For one, the single selfless act made by Nicholas’ parents has moved the country so much that it went into a national soul-searching. Beyond Italy, the news spread to the rest of the world, unfolding to what became known as “The Nicholas Effect”.
People were touched by how a family –faced with such a grievous misfortune – has turned it into a silver lining and brought hope into the lives of strangers they don’t even know. In a display of national support, over 120 places in Italy have since been named after “Nicholas” – serving as a lasting reminder for generations to come as his name continues to live on.
The Nicholas Effect
The popularity of the true story also spread beyond news coverage, as Nicholas’ father Mr. Reg Green subsequently wrote a book called “The Nicholas Effect”, based on the incident and the family’s experience. Not stopping quite yet, the family was also invited to major television shows like Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters, catapulting the awareness of organ donation to greater heights.
The book was also made into a story called “Nicholas’ Gift” in 1998 and the family set up the Nicholas Green Foundation, to further their cause of organ and tissue donations around the world.
Over the years, the impact was truly felt in Italy. Organ donation in the country rose from one of the lowest in Europe at 6.2 people per million who donated an organ in 1993, to 20 people per million in 2016. Italy also moved into an opt-out system in 1999 – hence, when a person dies, it is presumed that his organs will be donated, unless specified otherwise.
“Nicholas would have been proud”
The tragic death of a Californian boy in foreign soil not only saved the lives of seven individuals, but inspired millions of others across the globe, leaving behind a legacy. We know that the waiting lists for organ donations grow longer as years pass, and not everyone makes it long enough to receive an organ. Nicholas’ parents truly believed that their young son would have been proud, as he had touched and changed so many lives. MIMS
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