International Feature Story

'Nicholas Would Have Been Proud'

By Robert Kiener
His greatest gift to the world came after his untimely death

Leaning across the lace-covered dining table, Andrea Mongiardo talks quietly but intently about his new job, chopping the air with delicate, porcelain-white hands to drive home a point. "I help my uncle," he says. "We manage a block of flats." With a mop of black hair crowning a slight, five-foot-three-inch frame, Mongiardo talks of his career plans while the sound of honking horns drifts up from the street into his family's flat on the outskirts of Rome. In his spare time, the 24-year-old adds, he walks in the nearby parks or swims in the local pool. "Best of all, I've finally got my driving licence."
Listening to the enthusiastic young man, his 75-year-old visitor, Reg Green, a former Fleet Street journalist, smiles wryly. "Bravo Andrea! And is there a girl in your life?" A broad sash of crimson lights up Andrea's cheeks. "Well..." he begins. Green laughs. It's a simple conversation, but remarkable all the same. Nine years ago, Andrea Mongiardo lay critically ill in a hospital in Rome. His skin was blue, his cheeks sunken. The malformed heart that had stunted his growth and often kept him bedridden was now killing him.
Doctors didn't expect him to survive more than a few weeks. Then, on October 1, 1994, a seven-year-old boy died in Messina, Sicily. His heart was rushed to Rome and transplanted into Andrea. One day later, colour returned to the teenager's face. Within weeks he was walking and putting on weight.Recently, he had an electrocardiogram. "I am always a bit apprehensive. But the doctor said, 'Relax Andrea, your heart is perfect.' "
Reg Green reaches over and rests a hand on the young man's shoulder. Then he hugs him. It is the heart of his son Nicholas that rescued Mongiardo from certain death nine years ago. "Yes, Andrea," he says, blinking away tears, "it was a good, strong heart. And now it's your heart."
You may remember the story ["The Boy Who Lived For Ever"]. Nine years ago, it made headlines—and broke hearts—around the world. Highway robbers shot Nicholas Green, a freckle-faced, tousle-haired boy from northern California, as he and his family drove through southern Italy on holiday. He died two days later...
( click here to read the entire story)