More than 60 years ago, a 12-year-old boy named Nick boarded an oceanliner, leaving war-ravaged Greece to come live with his uncle in North Carolina.
“I didn’t have a penny to my name,” says Nick. “I was in short pants with two wooden suitcases, and a cardboard sign around my neck telling the railroad where I had to go.”
Five years later from the day he arrived, Nick became a U.S. citizen. He started to work, began building a life for himself and shortly thereafter, for a growing family.
Today, he and his wife Susan have been married for 54 years. They have four grown children, and several businesses. He’s still a “workaholic,” says Susan. “Nick likes to say he works ‘half days.’ From 7:30 AM to 7:30 PM—that’s half a day.”
He enjoyed good health as well, and only saw a doctor when a hernia began to bother him. Unfortunately, tests showed something more disturbing.
Nick’s liver was failing — and he was told that he would need a transplant. At first, Nick wasn’t sure he wanted to be on the transplant waiting list. After all, he was now in his 70s, and was concerned that the surgery would be a burden on his family.
But his family and doctors convinced him otherwise. His doctors pointed out that he was in general good health, and as Susan says, “Nick is the patriarch of our family. I don’t know what we’d do without him.”
Miraculously, less than a month after being put on the list, Nick learned that a matching liver had become available—from a donor several years older than Nick who was 73 at the time. The surgery was a success, and soon Nick was back on his feet and back to work. “He wasn’t done living yet,” says his wife.
Nick is grateful for the gift of more time, and feels a responsibility to his donor. “The person who gave me that organ gave me the ultimate gift...the gift of life. I have a responsibility to look after it, and to contribute in return to my family and my community.”
Nick is also a registered donor himself. “We all owe that to each other,” he says. “Why waste such a precious gift, when someone can benefit from it? If there’s a way I can help, that’s what I’m going to do.”