By Kenneth Barilari
Former Rutgers Prep wrestling star Brett Epps received a kidney donation from Alix Cirigliano, the woman he plans to marry. Kacy Epps, Brett’s younger brother, filmed a documentary chronicling the time before and after the life-saving procedure.
The documentary, titled 5 Ounces, highlights the emotional journey that the transplant had on Brett, Alix, and the entire family. “I wanted the title to be something mysterious, but once you knew what it meant, it made perfect sense,” Epps said. He then told me that five ounces is the average size of a healthy kidney. Mission accomplished.
It has not been an easy journey for the Epps family. Since Brett’s diagnosis two years ago, they have been actively trying to find a perfect match that is able to go through with the surgery. Last year, a match was found. However, due to complications during surgery, the transplant was aborted.
Then, Alix Cirigliano, Brett’s girlfriend at the time, found out that she was a match. The surgery was scheduled, then postponed because Brett’s blood pressure was too high. Brett devised a plan to propose on the day of the newly scheduled surgery. There was another setback, but this did not stop the engagement plan. He proposed in the hospital bed, just as he had planned to do before the procedure was postponed. “There’s no set date yet,” Kacy said. Once the couple gets past recovery, then wedding preparations can begin.
Since the transplant, there have been some bumps in the road. Alix had to go back to the hospital due to complications which have since been resolved. Brett started showing signs that his body was rejecting the kidney, but his medicine was changed and the problems have been solved. He is now allowed to drive and do cardio. “He was able to have his first beer in two years,” Kacy said.
Kacy, a Perth Amboy native, has been interested in film and video production since he was about 9 or 10 years old. He recalls making movies in his backyard. “I love capturing visuals and creating memories,” he said. As time progressed, he started getting more serious. It has since turned into a big hobby.
Kacy says that he doesn’t often plan to film specific projects. Instead, he waits for something to come along and inspire him to create. “I don’t give myself timed deadlines,” he said. “I just do it as it comes to me.”
While this experience has been a roller coaster for the family, Kacy highlights the positives that have come out of it all. “It’s brought us all way closer together. We were a close family to begin with, but this solidified us.” He goes on to say that he has become much closer with his brother’s fiancé, who “has done so much.”
Along with younger brother Cody, Kacy created a Facebook page at the time of Brett’s diagnosis to spread the word that he was looking for a living donor. The page, titled “Wrestling My Toughest Opponent Ever,” has almost 6,000 likes. Check it out to learn more, and watch the documentary above.