OSU alumni couple strengthens future marriage with life-saving kidney donation
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
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A common wedding vow is to love someone through sickness and health, and Hannah Maggiore got a head start on that promise to fiancé Tyler Cortinas.
Cortinas and Maggiore first met when they were serving as Homecoming directors for their respective fraternity and sorority in 2016. Cortinas knew Maggiore was the woman for him from the first time they met.
“We met at the first Homecoming meeting,” Cortinas said. “By the time we walked out of the meeting, I was very interested in Hannah. I didn’t care about Homecoming anymore. I knew when I saw her that she was the one.”
Even though Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity already determined they would be paired with Alpha Chi Omega sorority, Cortinas still set up a meeting with Maggiore, a member of Alpha Xi Delta, at Chick-fil-A, hoping to spend more time with her.
“Little did I know I was being bamboozled into a date,” Maggiore said. “Obviously, Tyler intended for it to be a date, and the rest is history.”
Cortinas graduated from OSU in 2017 with a degree in accounting and a minor in finance, then moved to Waco, Texas, to attend law school at Baylor University.
That led to a long-distance relationship for the couple. After graduating in May 2020 with degrees in strategic communications and hospitality and tourism management, Maggiore moved to Waco to join Cortinas.
In July 2020, while spending some time with friends in Dallas for the Fourth of July, Maggiore contracted COVID-19. All of the people she was in close contact with went to get tested, including Cortinas. A shocking reading of his blood pressure was the initial warning sign for Cortinas’ diagnosis.
“My blood pressure was 190 over 125,” Cortinas said. “They said I could have a stroke at any time because my blood pressure was so dangerously high.”
Cortinas made an appointment with his family doctor the following week. After a couple of tests, he received an alarming call that night while he was out walking with Maggiore.
“He basically told me that my kidneys were failing,” Cortinas said. “My renal function was at about 19 percent, and he told me I needed to get in touch with a nephrologist right away.”
Cortinas was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger’s disease. It is a kidney disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA) builds up in the kidneys. This results in local inflammation that can hamper the kidneys’ ability to filter waste from the blood over time. There is no cure for IgA nephropathy, and Cortinas needed a kidney transplant.
“There was nothing that gave us any indication Tyler was sick,” Maggiore said. “There wasn’t anything for us to know besides potentially high blood pressure. I don’t know how we would have found out if I didn’t catch COVID-19.”
Immediately after the diagnosis, many of the people closest to Cortinas went to get their kidneys tested for a potential donor match. The initial ideal donor was one of Cortinas’ best friends, Mark Skinner.
Skinner and Cortinas attended the same schools from kindergarten until graduating from OSU. They were roommates and fraternity brothers in Stillwater, so it was no question for Skinner that he was willing to help his friend.
“I didn’t think it was as heroic as everyone was saying,” Skinner said. “Tyler is my friend, and I have known him forever.”
In September 2020, plans were made for Cortinas and Skinner to have surgery at the
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
in December. This decision would allow both of the patients to recover over the holiday break. However, Cortinas worsened throughout September and October.
“At that point, I was at 13 percent kidney function,” Cortinas said. “They let me know if I got to 10 percent, I was going to have to go on dialysis. I really didn’t want to do that.”
On Oct. 23, the nephrologist called Cortinas and told him he needed to get to a hospital
immediately. His kidney function had dropped to 5 percent, and he was in danger of
losing his life. Cortinas and Maggiore immediately left Waco and went straight
to the hospital in Galveston where Cortinas started dialysis treatment.
Skinner, who lived in Austin at the time, made plans to get his last step of testing completed, so he could be ready for the surgery as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the testing revealed cysts on Skinner’s kidneys, which made him ineligible to be a donor for Cortinas.
“That was a really sad day,” Skinner said. “I was pretty confused. I felt bad and like I had let Tyler down.”
After Skinner was eliminated as the donor, the next best match was Maggiore. She completed her final tests and blood work, and the transplant surgery took place on Dec. 3. The couple spent a few days in the hospital before finishing their recovery at home with Cortinas’ parents.
This experience really forced the already-close couple to lean on each other even more. The bond they have was strengthened by this process.
“I know that Tyler would have done the same thing for me,” Maggiore said. “We really had to be each other’s rock through all of this.”
Skinner is also happy to see his friend healthy and back to being himself.
“When he got the news, you could hear it in his voice that he had the weight of the world on his shoulders,” Skinner said. “It changed him. Now that he has the new kidney, he has more life. You can tell he is excited.”
As Cortinas and Maggiore prepare for life together as a married couple, Cortinas reflected on the sacrifice that Maggiore made to help save his life.
“We have been together for a long time,” Cortinas said. “In wedding vows, they say through sickness and through health. Well, we have gone through the sickness, and she is the reason I am healthy again.”
Story by Will Carr | Photos provided by Hannah Maggiore