As sales manager for the Oheka Castle in Huntington, Farmingdale resident Rick Bellando offers many things to brides and grooms planning their wedding. But never before had he offered to donate his kidney. That is until he met Matt Fulgieri.
Rick Bellando and Matt Fulgieri.
Bellando first met Fulgieri and his fiancée, Mamie, about five years ago when they were booking their wedding at Oheka. They became friendly when Bellando learned Fulgieri was suffering from Polycystic Kidney Disease, a life-threatening illness that took the life of his mother, grandmother and most recently his brother.
"Matt was told he needed a donor by the end of the year," Bellando said. "Many of Matt's friends and myself went for testing in May 2007; and in August I learned I was a match."
The transplant surgery was on Nov. 6 at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan and Bellando said they are both doing fine after a few weeks of recuperation.
"Matt's doctors said all of his numbers are great," Bellando added.
Bellando, a married father of three girls, said he felt he "had to do this."
"Matt has two little boys who were about to lose their father if he did not get a donor," Bellando added. "I kept thinking of my girls and just knew I had to do this. He made me the godfather to his little boy and we talk and see each other all the time. My family and his family are now one."
Bellando was not a member of any donor registrations and said he believes it was just "fate that two of us met and ended up being a perfect match." However, he said he would recommend becoming a donor.
"It is an extremely personal decision that one must make, but if you can save someone's life and the lives that he affects, then I recommend it wholeheartedly," he added.