A "Gift that Heals"

January 2, 2008 11:37:49 AM PST
It's the gift that doesn't cost a cent, but helps so many

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Reg Green, a former journalist, remembers, "Shots were fired, and one of these hit Nicholas in the head."

13 years ago, Green's family vacation in Italy turned to tragedy when his 7-year-old son Nicholas was killed during a robbery attempt.

It was a case of mistaken identity - the gunmen mistook Green's car for one known to be carrying a lot of jewelry.

Nicholas lay in the hospital, on life-support.

Amidst the sorrow, Green donated his son's organs for transplant, touching off a revolution that's seen donations triple in Italy.

Green says proudly, "Nicholas is a national hero in Italy."

Since then, Green has been involved in promoting organ donor awareness and now hopes his book, A Gift That Heals, will help more Americans consider this simple, but so amazing gift.

The book details 42 people involved in transplants - from recipients, to nurses, to the pilot of an organ transport plane.

Organ and tissue from one donor can benefit up to 50 people.

Green says, "I've scarcely met anybody who said they regretted making the decision,. I've met a lot who say - I wish I'd done that."

Gary Onufer of Ambler is glad someone said yes to donation.

Onufer has the distinction of being the only person to have 3 hearts in 28 days.

Last January, just as he was moving into his new home, Onufer began to feel very weak.

A sudden infection had left this fitness instructor's formerly robust heart in ruins.

His doctors made it clear -

Onufer remember, " You can't make it out of here without a transplant."

In fact, his heart couldn't wait for a transplant.

He became the first in this area to receive a pioneering artificial heart.

Just after receiving the CardioWest Artificial Heart, he said, "It's a wonderful thing. I can breathe again."

The mechanical heart kept Onufer going, but it's no replacement for the real thing - and that came 20 days later.

Today, Onufer and his wife are still amazed at the path they've taken in the past year, and he's sent a letter to his donor's family.

He wants to tell that family, "I mourn for your loss, but on the other hand, I was given a new lease on life."