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Fri, Oct 24, 2014 10:47 PM
Issue of October 22, 2014

A hope note
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A hope note
Dr. Wayne Willis reflects on life and hope.

The Nicholas Effect

March 26, 2014 | 10:27 AM

In October 1994, four Californians — 7-year-old, freckle-faced Nicholas Green, his sister, Eleanor Green, and their parents, Margaret and Reginald Green — were on holiday in Southern Italy. Highway robbers started following their car. Twice they fired shots into the Greens' car. After the pursuers gave up, Reginald stopped the car and only then realized that Nicholas had been shot in the head.

Nicholas died two days later. His parents, in their hour of unimaginable grief and loss, chose to make him an organ donor. Within hours, seven Italians, some near death, received the child's corneas, kidneys, liver, pancreatic islet cells and heart.

The Greens' act of generosity moved an entire country. The number of organ donations tripled. Italians still call it "The Nicholas Effect." The Italian Parliament passed a law of "presumed consent"; adults who do not put in writing that they are against organ donation are presumed to have given their consent.

The seven recipients of Nicholas' organs were a mother who had never seen her baby's face clearly, a diabetic who had gone into diabetic comas several times, a 15-year-old boy with a body the size of a 7-year-old because of a diseased heart, a sportsman who was losing his eyesight and two children on dialysis.

The other recipient was a 19-year-old girl who was lying in a coma with liver failure the night Nicholas was shot. She became healthy, married and had two children. She and her husband named their son after Nicholas. She said, "We talk about Nicholas — we call him 'Big Nicholas' — all the time."

Reginald Green said: "It never fails to amaze me that a small, 7-year-old boy has touched and changed so many lives. Nicholas would have been so very proud."

Dr. Wayne Willis


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Corydon Democrat, 301 N. Capitol Ave., Corydon, IN 47112 1-812-738-2211 email