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Press Conference for First Intercontinental Kidney Paired Donation Transplant - Remarks by Ambassador Vassilis Kaskarelis
Thank you all for taking the time to join us this morning at the Embassy of Greece.
This press conference marks a very special occasion, a collaborative transatlantic effort that has thus far spared the lives of six people, a collaboration based on selflessness, compassion, trust and commitment.
With the world around us facing economic and political challenges, which at times seem insurmountable, such occasions reaffirm our faith in our humanity, and make us more optimistic and more hopeful about our common future.
This joint effort of “paying it forward” confirms what a huge difference an individual can make; it forces upon us the realization of the transformative power of one single act, one single choice. It also confirms that we are all part of one world, that our fates are intertwined and that if we all work together, the possibilities are endless.
This series of life-saving events began with a single altruistic and courageous act by Elizabeth Gay of Woodward, Oklahoma, coupled with the determination of Dora Papaioannou-Helmis, loving wife of Michalis, (we are connected with them via skype) who had the stamina to lobby for changes in the Greek law on organ transplantation. It was further facilitated by dedicated and committed doctors, spearheaded by Dr. Michael Rees, Director of Transplantation at the University of Toledo, and CEO of the Alliance for Paired Donation. Finally, it was “paid forward” by individuals who recognize the value of this powerful concept.
Here, please allow me to point out that this very important concept of “paying it forward” dates back to ancient Athens (317 BC). It first appears in a play by Menander titled “Dyskolos,” roughly translated into “Grouch” or even “Misanthrope,” and propounded by many around the world, including Benjamin Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson and others in the United States.
Some might even remember a film about it, ten years ago or so, titled just that: “Pay it Forward”. I must confess that seeing it, I thought to myself “what a nice fairytale”.
Today, I am happy I was wrong, and even happier to see this concept come to fruition in real life.
I am very glad that joining us today are many of the protagonists of this important chain of events. Dr. Rees, of course, Dr. Manesh Gupta, Dr. Mary Eng, Dr. Michael Marvin, surgeons from Piedmont Hospital, Colorado Hospital and Scripps Clinic, as well the Helmis family doctors from Athens, Dr. John Boletis and Dr. Dimitris Moutzouris, and their attorney Vasilis Athanasiou.
Elizabeth Gay, whose selfless gift started it all, is also with us, as are recipients and donors, Charles Ripple and his wife, Douglas Dixon and his sister and JoAnn and William Breckenridge. I also thank Ambassador Eric Rubin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, for joining us today, and we look forward to hearing from him at the end of my remarks.
All of you, who have been involved in this life-altering venture, please accept my heartfelt congratulations and may life reward you for your generosity.
I also truly hope that it is only the first of many such exchanges throughout the world.