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Richmond Spider saves classmate’s life 30 years after leaving campus

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Matt Felix and Pat Kacani’s friendship stretches back three decades.

"Well, we met freshman year. We kind of hit it off right from there," Richmonder Pat Kacani said.

The 51-year-old men share fond memories of University of Richmond and a bond thicker than most guys thanks to a four-pound organ. About 20 years ago Matt was diagnosed with a rare liver disease. Medication treated the ailment and life went on as normal until two years ago. That is when Matt’s doctors told him his liver was failing fast.

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As family members were scratched from the donor list  word spread fast about Matt’s condition. Matt needed help desperately.

"I need a liver transplant," Matt recalled thinking.

Some 325 miles away Matt’s friend Pat would receive an e-mail that would change their lives.

"I was sitting at my desk and reading it and I was like, ‘Oh, man,’” Pat said. “I was like, ‘I can do this. It is going to be me.'"

The Richmonder vowed he would do anything to save his friend in New Jersey.

"I just can’t see myself sitting at Matt’s funeral not knowing I did everything possible," Pat said.

Pat would endure days of physical and psychological testing. He would not be deterred.

"Sure enough I was a match," Pat said.

Matt knew what sacrifice Pat was making.

"It felt like I had a new lease on life, literally," Matt said. "He was committed early on and never wavered from that."

On November 27, 2012, Pat donated two thirds of his healthy liver. The pair would move from fraternity brothers to blood brothers.

Matt Felix and Pat Kacani (left); healthy liver (top), failing liver (bottom)

Pat Kacani and Matt Felix  (left); healthy liver (top), failing liver (bottom)

"I think if you ask the doctors, I think they would say they couldn’t ask for a better outcome," a grateful Matt said. "What Pat did is totally unique. You’re never going to find that. You’re never going to find anyone outside of your family willing to step up and give a piece of your liver no less."

Twenty months after their surgeries at New York Presbyterian Hospital, both friends have fully recovered.

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"It is very humbling. Very humbling. I don’t know a full way to repay him," Matt said.

They may share a liver, but certainly not NFL team allegiances.

"The irony is that I’m an Eagles fan so there is a bit of a dichotomy there you know as long as I stay healthy his Giants part of the liver will still be going strong," Matt said with a smile.

Pat Kacani and Matt Felix are two guys proving some friendships run so much more than skin deep.

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Click here to nominate a hero.

"Once again it is one of those relationships that will last," Pat said. "It has lasted 30 years. I don’t see why it doesn’t last another 30 years."

Both men have encouraged friends, family and strangers to sign up to become an organ donor. Right now according to Matt and Pat there are 121,000 people in America waiting for organ donations.

Greg McQuade and CBS 6 News are featuring local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

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