18 Mar 2024

Viggo Sørensen Shines On

By Rick Bevan

Emblazoned on the wall of the Tommy Fleetwood Academy at Jumeirah Golf Estates, where the best players in the world hone their games during the DP World Tour Championship, and where countless promising young stars of the future put in hours of practice as they dream of one day following in the footsteps of Fleetwood, Rory and Co. is a simple yet overwhelmingly poignant tribute: Viggo Will Shine Forever

Most people who are part of the Dubai golf community will know the story of Viggo Sørensen. An absurdly talented young golfer taken far too soon. A young man about to set out on the adventure of a lifetime, just a couple of months away from beginning a golf scholarship at college in the US, when he died suddenly after a massive brain haemorrhage in early 2022. He was just 17 years old.

For his friends and everyone who knew him on the local golf scene, it was devastating. For his family, it was the unthinkable. No parent should ever have to experience the death of their child and it’s hard for anyone with kids to imagine how they would deal with it. This was the tragic situation Nathalie Grall-Sorensen and her husband, Thomas, suddenly found themselves thrust into. In one heart-wrenching moment, everything changed and their lives would never be the same again. Yet, somehow, they had to find the strength to carry on.

Their first bold and decisive move was to ensure that Viggo’s passing wasn’t in vain by donating his organs to others in need. That action alone saved no fewer than five lives. But more than that, it was the catalyst that sent Nathalie on a crusade which has seen her become one of the UAE’s leading advocates for organ donation. In the last 12 months alone, she’s attended 25 conferences to give speeches as well as appearing across multiple media channels, tirelessly promoting organ donation every chance she gets.

“I’ve been very busy, everything is happening so fast,” says Nathalie. “When you focus on blessing others you receive a lot back. I have a lot of gratitude that I have the strength to do what I need to do on this path that Viggo put me on. It’s as if he’s behind me, pushing me on.

“There’s not one week where something is not happening so I’m very proud of the impact that Viggo’s story has had, it’s incredible. Just yesterday I was contacted because there’s a big international congress in Abu Dhabi and they want me to come and be a speaker. I’m so blessed. Viggo saved five lives with his organs but he’s saving far more now.”

Organ donation is still a fairly new concept in the UAE, having only been made legal in 2017 and a key part of Nathalie’s mission is to educate medical professionals on the need to provide ongoing care for donor families. A touching video about Viggo’s story is played at conferences around the region and beyond as well as to employees in large organisations such as ADNOC and DEWA.

“It’s very important for me to make sure the donor families get the proper support,” she says. “Now they train the staff how to deal with this situation because organ donation has not been happening for very long in the UAE.

“Something clicked for me and I knew that I needed to do something because I had the strength to do it. Recently I met a mum who lost her daughter at six years old and donated the organs. It was four years ago and she is still broken. I realised Viggo gave me so much strength that I can help the others.”

It was announced by the Emirates News Agency (WAM) in January that the UAE has achieved growth of 417 percent over the past five years in the number of organ donors per million of population. The Hayat Organ Donation now has 25,678 registered donors and is the fastest growing programme in the world.

Nathalie’s efforts have quite rightly been acknowledged by the organisations she is helping to the extent that she was honoured with three awards in the space of 10 days earlier this year. Among them was a prestigious award from the French consulate for humanitarian action in the UAE. It was presented to Nathalie on February 1, 2024, two years to the day since Viggo’s passing.

“I believe in signs,” she says. “That was definitely one of them.”

Viggo has awards for outstanding achievement named after him at Trump International Golf Club, Dubai, Jumeirah Golf Estates, GEMS Academy (where he was a student) and the Emirates Golf Federation.

Four club members, who wish to keep their generosity anonymous, paid for an engraved bench bearing his name to be placed on the 17th hole of the Earth course, where he spent so many happy times. And the swing studio carrying that poignant message, where other talented golfers now work hard in pursuit of the dream that was cruelly stolen from him, is named in his honour.

“I always say in all my conferences that this can happen to anyone,” says Nathalie. “My life changed in one minute. In one minute, I was put into another world. We have all the power to make a difference and to give the precious gift of life. This is the message that is important to me.”

Viggo’s time in the physical world may have ended all too soon but in death, his impact has been enormous and his indomitable spirit lives on, manifested in the amazing work Nathalie is doing to save lives and improve care for donor families across the region and around the world. Viggo is indeed shining on.  γ

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