Boy’s organ donations in ’94 continue to touch lives
Seven-year-old Nicholas Green was shot Sept. 29, 1994, in Italy while on a vacation with his family.
The California boy was declared brain dead two days later, and his family decided to donate his organs.
“On the last day it was clear to us that he didn’t need his body anymore,” said Nicholas’ father, Reg Green, during a visit to South Lake Tahoe last month.
At the time, Green thought donating his son’s organs was a private, family decision. But in a short amount of time, all of Italy had heard the story.
Now, 15 years later, Nicholas’ sister, Eleanor Green, is flying back to Italy this month for the anniversary of Nicholas’ death.
“One little death ought to have been over and forgotten about by now,” Green said.
Eleanor said she’s a little nervous to be traveling to Italy because it will be her first solo trip there.
“This is a testament of how hard my parents have worked,” Eleanor said. “They still want to talk to me 15 years later.”
Many people don’t want to talk about organ donation because they think it is morbid, Eleanor said.
Organ donation is a topic family members should talk about with each other, Green said. Sometimes when a traumatic event has occurred, it’s hard to make decision, such as organ donation.
“If only they’d had that discussion when death was far away,” Green said. “To come together and cope with that decision right then and there is entirely too much for anyone.”
In 2008, Barton Health had 10 organ donors out of 90 deaths, said Kathy Cocking, Barton Health vice president of operations.
Since June, Barton has had one organ donor and 34 deaths, Cocking said.
At the time, Nicholas’ organs went to seven people, Green said. All were very sick, and one was dying that night, Green said.
Maria Pia Pedala was dying from liver failure, and her family had come to her hospital room to say their goodbyes, but by morning she had received Nicholas’ liver.
Now the woman is married with two children – one of them named after Nicholas.
“That’s two whole lives that never would’ve been without Nicholas,” Green said. “It’s not just one life. You save all those lives and the children they’ll have.”
When Green talks about Nicholas, he doesn’t cry. But when he begins to describe the others who are living because of his son, tears come to his eyes.
Donor rates depend on a number of factors, such as if the patient did or did not want to be a donor, and whether the organs are in good condition, Cocking said. Sometimes it’s hard for a transplant team to make it up to the South Shore, and larger institutions have better success rates, she added.
Because Barton is in a small, rural area, not as many donor situations arise, Cocking said.
“The best luck we have is with tissues,” Cocking said. “They’re not time-sensitive.”
Organs, such as kidneys, heart, lungs, liver and pancreas need to be donated within 72 hours, depending on the organ, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
One of the procurement organizations Barton Health works with is Golden State Donor Services, Cocking said.
It is a transplant donor network for the 2.5 million people in the Sacramento area. About 1,000 people are on the transplant waiting list, and between 60 to 80 people donate one or more organs upon death, according to the GSDS Web site.
These organizations evaluate possible donors, discuss donation and arrange for removal and transport of donated organs. A national computer network, Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, matches donated organs with recipients throughout the country.
Not all donations have to be used immediately. Tissues that can be stored include corneas, the middle ear, skin, heart valves, bone, veins, cartilage, tendons and ligaments, according to the OPTN. The regional tissue center, the Sierra Eye and Tissue Bank, is in Reno.
Green is also re-releasing his book, “The Nicholas Effect,” in honor of the anniversary. A made-for-television movie has already appeared on CBS in 1998 titled “Nicholas’ Gift,” staring Jamie Lee Curtis as Maggie, Green’s wife, and Alan Bates as Green.
“I want to make as much of an impact as possible,” Green said.
Waiting list candidates: 103,219 as of last Tuesday
Transplants from January to May 2009: 11,908
Donors from January to May 2009: 6,009
Under ideal conditions, one donor can supply as many as eight organs – heart, two lungs, liver, pancreas, two kidneys and intestine.
Source: Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network
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