‘My son died 23 years ago but his heart only just stopped beating’

Nicholas Green’s legacy lives on decades later.
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Seven-year-old Nicholas Green from America was tragically killed in 1994 while overseas on holiday with his family in Italy.

The family car got caught up in a jewellery heist when the attackers mistook their car for someone else’s.

“The first time I sensed danger was when a dark car came up close behind us and stayed there for a few moments… I thought if we did stop we would be completely at their mercy. So instead I accelerated. They did too, so the two cars raced alongside each other through the night. A bullet shattered the back window,” his father Reg told BBC News.

It was only when Reg pulled over she realised something was horribly wrong.

“I stopped the car and got out. The interior light came on but Nicholas didn’t move. I looked closer and saw his tongue was sticking out slightly and there was a trace of vomit on his chin,” he says.

Nicholas passed away in hospital the next day.

His parents, Reg and Maggie, made the incredibly brave decision to donate their son’s organs, causing Italy’s organ donation rate to triple in the years after – later coined the ‘Nicholas Effect’. Italy also set in place an opt-out system, where it’s presumed people will donate their organs unless they choose not to.

His organs were donated to seven people in desperate need, including his heart.

But his heart finally stopped beating as the boy he donated it to, Andrea Mongiardo, passed away earlier this year.

Andrea was 15 at the time he received his new heart and died of Lymphoma at the age of 37.

Reg was recently reunited with six of the others who received an organ off Nicholas.

“When the doors opened and the six 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.”

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