THE

POWER
OF ONE
Reg Green has become a powerful and effective
spokesman for organ donation

Giving Life’s
Greatest Gift
BY RO BERT K IENE R

PHOTO: © C AMERA PRESS / MA RTIN P OPE / TELEGRAP H
ALTHOUGH IT HAS BEEN more strada when a car came alongside
than 20 years since his seven-year-old them. Inside were two masked men
son Nicholas was killed during a fam- who yelled at the Greens to pull over.
ily vacation in Italy, for his father Reg Without warning the highway bandits
Green, “sometimes it seems like yes- fired shots into the Greens’ car, first
terday.” Sitting near the pool at his shattering the rear passenger window,
home in Los Angeles, the white- then the driver’s window. Maggie
haired, 86-year-old former Fleet Street quickly turned around to make sure
journalist confesses, “There’s not a the children were safe. Both appeared
day that goes by that I don’t think of to be sleeping peacefully. Green man-
Nicholas and his funny little ways.” aged to speed away and outpace the
Green and his wife Maggie were on robbers, but when he and Maggie
a family holiday in 1994 with Nicho- stopped at the scene of another acci- Reg Green, 86, has made it
las, 7, and his sister Eleanor, 4, travel- dent they noticed that Nicholas had his life’s work to spread the
ing south from Naples on the auto- been shot in the head. He was ➸ message of organ donation.

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READER’S DIGEST  

breathing but unconscious. their story they could spread the mes- donation awareness and have made feel to Nicholas and agreeing to work
Two days later freckle-faced, fair- sage about the importance of organ and distributed over 5,000 copies of a together to increase awareness. Last
haired Nicholas Green was declared donation. As Green explains today, “I video about the subject. Green has year an Italian government official
brain dead in a Sicilian hospital, had found my life’s work.” flown over one million miles since from Calabria, the Italian region
hooked up to a wall of machines that 1994, speaking and urging people “to where Nicholas was shot, wrote the
kept his heart beating and his blood LIKE RIPPLES IN a pond, the Green’s have a conversation about organ do- Greens, explaining, “Everybody in It-
circulating. “It was obvious that Nich- decision to donate Nicholas’ organs nation.” aly, and particularly in Calabria, car-
olas was gone,” recalls Green as he ex- spread first across Italy, then Europe “No one in the entire world has ries in his heart little Nicholas and the
plains how he and Mag- and eventually much of done more for public awareness in or- noble example of kindness, love and
gie made the decision the world. Organ dona- gan donation than Reg and Maggie civility of your family.”
that would forever tions immediately shot Green,” says Howard M. Nathan, pres- Letters like that mean a lot to Reg
change their lives, and “If the fire up 25 percent in Italy, a ident and CEO of the Gift of Life Do- Green. “People often bare their souls
the lives of countless shows any signs country where organs nor Program. in these letters and we answer every
other people. “We asked
if we could donate his
of dying had been in chronically
short supply. They rose
The need is staggering. In 2013,
70,000 people in the European Union
one,” he explains. And he never turns
down an interview request.
organs. It was a way to down, I will for ten straight years, were waiting for organ donations, “It doesn’t get any easier,” says
alleviate some of the pour gasoline from 6.2 per million of with an average of 12 people dying Green as he launches into a story
horror, and he didn’t
need that body any
on it. It’s that population in 1993 to
19.7 per million, and
each day. For the terminally ill pa-
tients and their families waiting for a
about how Nicholas loved playing a
game about being a heroic Roman
more.” important.” have since remained much-needed organ, it is a matter of soldier, just home from the front and
Italians, who had steady (18.5 in 2013), life and death. honored by generals and the public
been following Nicho- saving thousands of Sadly, the need for organs is always alike. “We told him he’d be immortal-
las’ shooting in the Italian media— lives. “The Nicholas Effect,” as it has greater than the supply. An Italian ized in poetry and people would
newspapers had labeled it La Nostra been dubbed, was recognized as the transplant surgeon at an event honor- cheer him,” explains Green, with just
Vergogna, (“Our Shame”)—were gal- catalyst that changed the thinking of ing Green took him aside and told a slight catch in his throat.
vanized by the Greens’ generosity. the nation. him, “Right now I have two children “And, in a way, all that did come
Within hours seven Italians, several of in my hospital who will die if they true,” he continues. “Nicholas’s story
whom were close to death, received SINCE 1994 GREEN has returned to It- don’t get lungs soon. If only we had captured people’s imagination and lit
Nicholas’ heart, liver, kidneys, pan- aly more than 50 times, as scores of Nicholas now.” Explains Green, “It’s a spark of love in millions of hearts. If
creas cells and both corneas. They villages and cities have honored Nich- comments like that that keep me go- that isn’t immortality, it must surely
quickly recovered. Their decision, olas by naming more than 100 ing. I am simply amazed that our come close.”
Green later wrote in his book, The schools, streets and squares after him. story is still moving people two de- More information: www.Nicholas-
Nicholas Effect, “took the entire nation Green has also given hundreds of cades later but if the fire shows any Green.org
by storm.” Journalists lined up to in- talks to medical and organ donation signs of dying down, I will pour gaso-
terview the Greens, they were feted by groups around the world. line on it. It’s that important.”
both Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Ber- Using money earned from speaking
lusconi and President Oscar Luigi fees and film rights and their savings, THE COUPLE receive a steady stream
Scalfaro. the Greens established the Nicholas of letters, emails and phone calls from
The couple realized that by telling Green Foundation to promote organ strangers telling them how close they

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