The REAL Mary…

So who is the real Mary, you ask? Mary’s Café is named after Mary Gambone, my incredible mother. While nearly every mother loves their child and children keep their mothers in a special place in their hearts,the real Mary and I are especially close, as we both love so many of the same things! My fondest childhood memories were spent in the kitchen learning to cook with my mother.

Both of my parents lived to give their kids an amazing childhood. Sometimes however, road blocks can stop you right in your tracks; this is no time to give up, but instead a time to hold onto those closest to you and overcome each obstacle. This is a lesson I learned from my Mom and Dad and will always remember in life.

When I was just 5 weeks old, my parents hit a road block. After a month of falling in love with their second baby boy, my parents woke one morning to a sick child. They immediately rushed me to St Christopher’s Hospital in Philadelphia, fearing the worst and praying for a miracle. That miracle did come, and after several months in the hospital, I survived. The diagnosis was a blocked ureter which caused my kidneys to fail. My parents left the hospital knowing that I only had about 10% of function in my left kidney, while my function in my right kidney was completely unusable.

My parents quickly learned all they could about my health concerns, and my mother became a blazing advocate during doctor visits, probing for answers and educating herself in all things nephrology. As I grew, the fear of kidney failure loomed over my parents’ heads. I, on the other hand, saw myself as normal as kids come. I climbed trees, played sports, and never once thought that my health issue should hinder me from being a kid. I owe my free-spirited childhood to my mom and dad.

After years of doctor’s visits, at 18, the doctors told my parents and me that my kidney function was close to 0% and I would need a transplant. My mother and father discussed every option and without hesitation my mother agreed to donate her kidney to me. Surgeries were scheduled and our family hugged close, to prepare for a speed bump my parents had anticipated my whole childhood.

A decade later, I continued to find strength and motivation from my mother and packed up my life in a uhaul and moved from Philadelphia to Austin with the dream of opening a café. Three years into the Mary's journey things took another turn. My kidney function declined. See, the thing a lot of people don't understand about kidney transplants are that they do not last forever. Your body is trying to attack the kidney because it doesn't belong to you. Medicine has improved and they can last a good long while, but at some point the kidney will fail. In 2017, that became my reality. I started dialysis treatments and began the search for a new kidney.

There were many ups and downs along the way, but finally, on September, 6th, 2018, I received a paired donation kidney. Paired donation means that I was unable to find a match for myself from friends and family but my doctors was able. I still needed to come with a donor and because of an amazing friend named Larkin Tackett...I was. Larkin donated his kidney to a stranger so that I could receive a kidney from a stranger. He saved my life.

What a journey it's been so far. I know that life will continue to present me with ups and downs, but I stay strong because I know that I am loved and that there are amazing people out there willing to do amazing things.

Have you considered being an organ donor?

Find more information about organ donation at