‘I feel better than ever’

On October 8, a young man died on a road in Florida, the hopes of Archbishop Christodoulos for a transplant faded, and a new chapter started in the life of singer Yakov Girshon. «It’s a miracle,» Girshon, 63, told Kathimerini, after receiving the transplant originally designated for the Greek Church leader. «I feel better than ever. I wanted to live; I fought and I succeeded,» he said a month after the operation. Optimistic by nature, he is enjoying his new life. He laughs, sings and is planning his next appearances to «share the happiness and speak to the hearts» of his public. He thanked God, «who has his own plans,» Professor Andreas Tzakis, «the best Greek doctor,» and, above all, the parents of the 24-year-old donor «who gave life to other people by donating their child’s organs.» He expressed a wish to come to Greece to see the archbishop, whom he met at Jackson Memorial Hospital. «I want to ask him, through your paper, to be strong and to smile because life goes on, and to pray to God because, as his functionary, he is blessed to be closer to him than us ordinary people. Whatever is to happen, will happen. We can’t control everything in this world. Let’s pray to see the positive side of things. Every day we gain matters, it’s a whole life. So I ask the archbishop to smile, to live every moment.» Girshon recalled his meeting with the archbishop in the corridor of the hospital. «When I saw him surrounded by his colleagues I went up, took his hand and smiled at him. I was touched that he kept asking about my health after the operation. As soon as my doctor allows it, I’ll go to Greece to meet him, give him support and encouragement.» Girshon prays for the archbishop but above all for the soul of the young donor. A few days ago, he met the man’s parents and thanked them. «It was a very special, very moving moment. His father tried to hide his feelings, hold back his tears. I told him it was all right to cry. And I told his mother: ‘Your son is in paradise now, but he will continue to exist in me. I know it’s hard. You have lost a child but you have given life.’ They are two wonderful people and I begged them not to give up. I’m a father and I know that their hearts are broken. What can you do now? Only look forward. They showed me photographs of a handsome young man. I asked if I could go to church with them one Sunday. What does it matter that I am Jewish and they are Christian? There is only one God.» The importance of transplants Surgeon Andreas Tzakis became known to the general public through the health problems faced by Archbishop Christodoulos. When he saw that a transplant was no longer appropriate due to the cancer’s metastasis, the next candidate on the list was Yakov Girshon. «Yakov is a typical case of what happens with transplants. They can restore health and prospects that have been lost. The message is simple and people have to understand it. Up to 15 years ago with transplants it took a superhuman effort to save a few people. Now it’s not a superhuman procedure. It’s an everyday reality that helps thousands of people to survive and live productive lives,» Tzakis told Kathimerini. «If people realize the importance of transplants and trust that there is a systematic, reliable and unbiased away of performing them, the problem of donors will be solved.» The archbishop’s case seems to have made the public more aware. «His case demonstrated the need to promote transplants in Greece.»