Cora Gargano is, in some ways, like many other three-year-olds. She loves to dance and play outside. She follows her big sister Chloe around, eager to do whatever she’s doing. Yet Cora was born with a complex congenital heart defect and due to complications has chronic kidney disease.
“She’s been through so much, but she’s always smiling. She laughs all the time. Every time she falls down, she just picks herself up, and dusts herself off,” said Cora’s mom, Kelly Gargano.
Also a bit of a prankster, Cora earned herself the nickname, Little Viking. With just 18 percent kidney function, her fight is to survive.
Kelly, who has worked at Saratoga Hospital for 10 years, and her husband Anthony Gargano, co-owner of the Spring Street Deli and Pizzeria, kept their struggles with Cora’s health mostly to themselves until they learned that Cora’s best chance at a healthier life was with a live kidney transplant.
Live donor kidneys typically last twice as long, and function better than a deceased donor kidney would. The surgery is done laparoscopically, through tiny incisions, has a quick recovery time, and the donor’s body will continue to function very much as it normally would.
“Anthony and I always thought one of us would be a match, but when we found out we weren’t, we started spreading the word a little,” said Kelly.
That’s how Sharon Kumlander heard of the family’s plight. Her son is on the Jr. Varsity Basketball team at Saratoga Central Catholic School that Anthony coaches. Anthony has been a youth coach in the region for more than 20 years, and has been working with the school for the last eight.
Kumlander spearheaded a public awareness campaign urging potential donors to go out and get tested. Flyers have been distributed, and several fundraisers recently took place; including a bottle drive, car wash, and benefit basketball tournament. The Reform Pilates Studio also recently hosted an event to support Cora.
“We really can’t thank our community enough as they are helping ease some of our worries with Cora’s care,” said Kelly.
These purposeful acts of kindness put compassion on the agenda and create a ripple effect. Despite the wonderful advances in medical technology, it still comes down to people needing people. Admittedly more complex than donating a pint of blood, many people have agreed to get tested, but a match still hasn’t been found for Cora.
“It’s the hardest thing to ask someone to do. I’ve had so many different responses as to why they’re willing to do it, but I feel like if I don’t ask, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life,” said Kelly.
Still willing to “share his spare”, Anthony is now being tested to see if he can swap his kidney with another family in the national database.