Baby Trenton was listed for a heart transplant; we had the discussion with doctors that “babies don’t just die;” and Trent had days at best to survive without a healthy heart. I’ve wondered over the years what would have happened if that baby hadn’t died, or if that family hadn’t made the decision to donate. The timing of less than three days was near perfect, and his passing away at the hospital right next door was unbelievable, but if it never happened, would there have been another donor close behind? Close enough AND an ideal match?
The story that saved Trent
When we met the donor family a year later, Sarah Lindemann mentioned thinking of organ donation immediately, because of seeing a story which appeared on news programs worldwide only months before. Trent was transplanted in March, 1995. Five months earlier, Reg Green and his family were traveling in Italy when thieves mistook them for someone else and shot into the car, killing their seven-year-old son, Nicholas. Organ donation was rare in Italy in those days, so when Reg and his wife Maggie decided to donate Nicholas’s organs, it made national news in Italy, and quickly spread to the U.S. where it caught Sarah’s attention.
Sidenote: organ donation in Italy tripled over the following decade and came to be known as the “Nicholas Effect.” A movie, called “Nicholas’s Gift,” starring Jamie Lee Curtis, was made about it.
It’s impossible to know how many other lives were affected worldwide by the sharing of Nicholas’s story, but I can name at least one.
Valerie and I were discussing the Green family in September of 2018, wondering whatever happened to them. I said, “I’m going to find them,” and in less than ten minutes, thanks to the wonder of Google, I had Reg Green’s email address and typed a note with the subject, “You saved us.” The note went as follows:
I think you helped save our baby boy.
Trenton was 11 months old in 1995, in ICU and not expected to live more than two weeks without a heart transplant. We were prepared that a heart may not come available in time, but we waited less than three days. Meeting the family a year later, they explained that they thought of donating because of Nicholas's story.
Glad to explain more if you like.
David A. Cary
A response arrived only moments later. Reg said the note gave him chills, that he was about to present on organ donation to a group in Seoul, South Korea, but wanted to let me know he received it and would get back with me. Reg also shared my note with the group in South Korea.
Reg and I had a telephone conversation days later (more on that in a coming blog post), and we met two months after when Reg flew to Dallas for the 30th anniversary celebration of the Children’s Health heart transplant program. We both spoke at the event; I spoke before Reg, sharing a few stories of Trenton, and Reg followed, commenting that he never imagined his efforts would save the life of a comedian.
Share your story…
…and not just your organ donation story. In the world of organ donation, our stories are ones of triumph over tragedy, creating good from a bad situation. They are an inspirational reminder of the blessing of being an organ donor, but just as importantly, they are comfort and encouragement to those who lost. Therefore, in the interest of others, share your story, whichever side of it you landed.
There are also countless stories outside of organ donation where one person has helped another, maybe a total stranger, and these stories should also be shared. Social media sites are trying to block fake news and divisive posts, but another effective method (maybe more so) is to share stories of when you were helped by another.
Social media tip: we tend to simply click the “Like” button on posts with which we agree, but are more likely to comment on posts with which we disagree. The algorithms, however, tend to push posts that receive more comments to the top of our feeds, which is why we see so many negative posts. Therefore, try to not only “Like” positive posts, but comment on them and then share them. That will push more positive posts to the top of our feeds. Problem solved.
For one helping another (and the sharing of those stories), I’m Still Thankful.