Death, and Hope, in the Middle East

By Reg Green —

When the doorbell rang in John Boria’s house in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, on August 31, 2004, and he saw three National Guard Air Force colonels standing there, his first thought was that they had come to the wrong address. The second, a moment later, came with sickening force.  “Has something happened to my son?” he asked.

Yes, they told him, something has happened. The Boria’s elder son, Capt. John Javier ‘Javy’ Boria, a 29-year-old Air Force pilot, had been injured in an off-duty accident in an all-terrain vehicle he was driving in Qatar, where he was based.

“I envisioned some sort of coma and I just wanted to be with him, to talk to him, to bring him back,” says John.  He managed to telephone the hospital and had them place the phone close to Javy’s ear while he and Wanda talked to him.

Their words were a jumble of choked emotions. “I love you very much. We’re all praying for you,” John remembers saying. “Hang in there, son. We’ll be with you soon.” But his heart was heavy and he could hear in the background the beep of the machines that were monitoring his son’s fragile hold on life. Wanda, a nurse, suspected that things were even worse than John imagined.

The plane ride, though exhausting, gave some relief with its promise of an end to the gnawing uncertainty. When they entered the Hamad Medical Center in Doha, Wanda was encouraged by meeting experienced doctors from around the world and seeing state-of-the-art medical equipment.

But their hopes were short-lived. The chief doctor assigned to the case didn’t waste time on a preamble. “I’m sorry to tell you that your son is brain dead,” she said. “There’s nothing we can do.”

“It hit me like a rock,” says John. “All those hopes that had been building up suddenly collapsed. We had been hoping for a miracle. I’d even brought a camera with me to take some pictures of him hooked up to all those machines so, when he was healed, we could use them as a testimony. Now that was all over.”

The doctors had one more thing to tell them. They had discovered that on his driver’s license Javy had indicated his willingness to be an organ donor. “But we won’t do anything without your approval,” they said. For the Borias it seemed simple. “We said, ‘Of course.’ Those were his wishes.”

The word flashed around the hospital that the American family was donating the organs and that they were going to Arab families.  In a region where donation is a rarity, the lives of four Arabs were saved and the sight of two others restored. One of the recipient families was so overcome with emotion that it offered the Borias money but was asked politely to give it to a charity instead.

Others not directly affected were moved, too. The mother of a boy who had been in a coma for months broke with custom to take off her veil and embrace Wanda. “Allah has been good to you,” she said. “My son is alive but he is not here. Your son will give life to others.”

To John, the crossing of boundaries seems perfectly natural. “My family and Wanda’s came from Puerto Rico and Javy was proud of his heritage. But the color of someone’s skin never mattered to him. His donation was color blind, too.”

This is an excerpt from “The Gift that Heals” by Reg Green (www.nicholasgreen.org).

Reg Green

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Reg Green is the father of Nicholas Green, a seven-year-old California boy who was shot in Italy in a botched robbery in 1994. The decision by Reg and his wife, Maggie, to donate his organs and corneas led to a worldwide increase in awareness of the shortage of donors. As part of their ongoing campaign to raise awareness, the Greens have produced videos, written articles, spoken at numerous meetings and been interviewed by the media around the world. Actors Jamie Lee Curtis and Alan Bates starred in a made-for-television movie, ?Nicholas? Gift,? based on the family's story. Reg, who was born in Britain in 1929, was a feature writer and reporter for the London Daily Telegraph, the London Times and the Guardian. He has written two books on organ and tissue donation, The Nicholas Effect and The Gift that Heals. The Greens have an 18-year-old daughter, Eleanor, and 12-year-old twins, Laura and Martin. They live in La Canada, Calif. Reg can be reached through his family's website . Reg appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss “Stories of Loss, Healing and Hope.” To hear Reg being interviewed on this show, click on the following link: www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley070308.mp3

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