The Richmond Years

“It started way back in 1981 in Moore Hall,” Patrick Kacani, B’85, joked. It was then that he met his friend Matt Felix, R’85. The two were roommates their sophomore and senior year, both from New Jersey, on the soccer team, and in the same fraternity.

After graduation, Patrick stayed in Richmond, while Matt went back to New Jersey. They stayed in touch and whenever Matt was down in Richmond they would see each other, but they weren’t as close as they had been during their college years.

A Fortunate Connection

In May 2012, Patrick was surprised to get an email about Matt’s health. Matt needed a liver transplant.

In his 30s, Matt was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that impacted his liver. Despite having very few problems previously, in 2011 Matt started getting unusual symptoms. He didn’t make the connection that it could be anything more serious until his wife suggested that it could be liver-related. Matt went to his specialist and after some tests; he was put on the transplant list.

After his diagnosis, Matt sent an email to a friend who managed Matt’s indoor soccer team saying he couldn’t play because he was dealing with medical issues. His friend probed, and when he found out that Matt needed a transplant, he sent an email to the entire soccer league.

In a serendipitous maze of email forwarding, that same email ended up in Patrick’s inbox.

“When [the email] got to me I knew I was going to do this,” Patrick said. “It was one of those things that you can’t explain.”

At that point, most of the people that had been tested for a match had either been ruled out, or were scared off. So, when Patrick called Matt saying that he was going to get tested, Matt was appreciative, but thought that the odds were not in his favor.

Patrick and his wife went up to New York so that he could get tested. “I almost felt bad that he had traveled all that way, because I just didn’t expect that the result was going to be positive,” Matt said.

When Patrick made the decision to be tested, he also made the decision to go through with the process the entire way.

At this point, Matt’s liver was starting to fail quickly.

Patrick was deemed a match in September and had a two-week waiting period to finalize his decision. During this time, Matt decided to change hospitals – when he was changing hospitals, Matt didn’t yet know that Patrick was a match. So, when Matt told Patrick he was changing hospitals, Patrick said, “Great. Just so you know you have a liver to go with you.”

On November 27, 2012, the two went to New York Presbyterian and had the transplant.

“The surgery went perfectly,” Patrick said. “We were dubbed the dream team because my portion of the liver matched perfectly with where the liver fits in. They said it just kissed.”

“For me,” said Matt “obviously, it was life-saving.”

Both Matt and Patrick have become big advocates of organ donation and participated in the Transplant Games of America last year. This is an Olympic-style competition for transplant recipients, donors, and families of those who gave their organs after death.

“I won 5 medals, Matt won 5 medals, so we say that our liver won 10,” said Patrick.

They encourage everyone to visit www.donatelifeamerica.org to get involved.

“Right now there’s 124,000 people waiting for an organ,” said Patrick, “not everyone will get one.”

Reunion

Matt said that not only have he and Patrick become closer, but his transplant has brought a community of classmates from Richmond together as well. They will be celebrating this community at their reunion this year the weekend of May 29. Patrick is a reunion volunteer and has attended every one of his reunions (and a few of his wife’s! WC’84). Reunion is a time when Spiders get together to celebrate and reconnect with each other and their alma mater. Patrick and Matt definitely have a lot to celebrate in each other.

To register for Reunion Weekend 2015, visit alumni.richmond.edu/events/reunion.

Written By: Katie Mogul, '15