Matt Felix and Pat Kacani met in college at the University of Richmond. Pat and Matt were both on the soccer team, lived on the same floor their freshman year, joined the same fraternity and were roommates for several years. The two native New Jerseyans established a close friendship from the start.
In recent years, the strength of their friendship has become even more apparent.
For 20 years, Matt, of Westfield, lived with primary sclerosing cholangitis, or PSC, the same liver condition that killed pro football great Walter Payton. Matt and Pat’s friendship, spanning more than 30 years, outlasted Matt’s liver when Matt’s symptoms took a grave turn in early 2012.
“I hadn’t even had the opportunity to reach out to Pat to tell him about my condition,” said Matt, director of sales and licensing at Moody’s. “Pat found out through a friend of a friend and decided immediately that he wanted to step up.”
Pat and many of Matt’s family members signed up as possible donors and were tested to see who was the best match. Testing was finalized in summer 2012 and found a match – and that match was Pat. He was able to donate a portion of his live to save his friend.
“I was beyond surprised,” said Matt. “This is a serious procedure and at first I wasn’t sure what he meant. Pat was so sure he wanted to do this; I will never forget my shock and amazement on that monumental day.”
Though Pat remained in Richmond after college, the two make sure to visit a few times a year. The two will head to the Transplant Games of America hosted in Houston this July.
“It’s funny how everything has come full circle,” said Matt. “My son is now a sophomore at Richmond and Pat’s daughter recently transferred there, so we’ve been seeing a lot of each other.”
Matt’s family and friends are participating in the NJ Sharing Network 4th Annual 5K Walk & USATF-certified race on June 8 to honor Matt’s strength and Pat’s generosity.
“So far it’s been a very positive thing for both of us,” said Matt. “As soon as this happened, the thing that hits you square in the face is that organ donation is incredibly important. Be aware that there may be instances in your life where you have an opportunity to pay it forward and step up. If everybody approached it the way Pat did, the waiting list for organs would be a lot shorter.”
Nearly 5,000 people in New Jersey currently are awaiting life-saving organs, and each day 18 people in the United States die while waiting for the gift of life. For more information on the NJ Sharing Network 5K Walk & USATF-certified race, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org.