Meet Cory

Those of us who were lucky enough to be a part of this journey with him were able to witness a true miracle.

Cory was born on January 19, 1987. He was born with a very rare and life-threatening condition known as a short gut syndrome. This meant that Cory was missing the majority of his intestine. Without this organ it remains difficult to absorb vital nutrients needed to sustain life, to thrive, and to grow. Cory was not expected to survive more than a few days, however, no one ever told Cory that, and so began his miraculous journey. Cory had his first surgery at only a few hours old, this was just the beginning. His prognosis of just a few days turned into a few weeks, a few months, a few years, and eventually, it became very evident that Cory was not following any of the expected paths associated with a life threatening medical condition. He was forging his own path. One that would teach so many people so many things, both medically and personally. Those of us who were lucky enough to be a part of this journey with him were able to witness a true miracle.


Cory endured over 100 surgeries & procedures including 2 separate organ transplant surgeries, the 2nd of which included 5 organs transplanted into his body at the same time. Cory’s daily routine was complicated and included several medical interventions throughout his day. Management of his multiple medications caused harsh side effects to his mind and body. While Cory struggled with his health issues daily it was rarely evident to others. His focus was always on the positive moments in his day and he considered the difficulties he had to deal with as just a part of his life. When things got extremely difficult for Cory he would always say “hey, this is still better than the alternative right,” and we all knew what Cory meant by that.  He made a conscious decision each day to live it to the fullest. Cory’s faith, hope, courage, and willingness to believe in miracles continued to fuel his unmatched optimism. Cory’s love and appreciation for life kept him ready and willing to face each day not knowing what the day might bring for him.  He lived every second of every day to the fullest of his ability. Even on October 26, 2014, when this day brought with it the end of Cory’s struggles, it was with dignity, strength, and peace surrounded by family and love, that Cory followed his path into his future.

Even with all of Cory’s medical issues forcing him to miss school for extended periods of time, he always worked very hard to keep up with his academic responsibilities. By the time Cory reached high school, he had been placed on the transplant list at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital. He began to get physically weaker and could no longer attend classes. Cory worked with a tutor and was homeschooled throughout high school. He worked very hard to keep up with the work that his classmates were doing because he was determined to graduate high school on time and with his peers. This was very important to Cory.  And of course, he made it happen. Even when on the morning of graduation Cory ended up in the emergency department and they were recommending he have surgery, Cory told them “not today, I’m graduating today, you can do surgery tomorrow”.  Cory arrived for the graduation ceremony with a big smile and we were all so very proud of him.

Cory attended Holyoke Community College and then onto Westfield State University. At both HCC and WSU Cory worked for the Alumni Association, the campus newspaper & radio station, and did peer tutoring. He volunteered at a soup kitchen and volunteered on campus for various causes. Cory graduated from WSU with a Bachelors Degree in Communications in May 2014. Our family was so very proud to see Cory walk into the arena carrying the flag representing the Communications department, an honor he was surprised by. To hear his name and see him walk across the stage and complete one of the biggest goals he had set for himself, it was amazing.

When Cory wasn’t involved in campus life or one of his many fundraisers he loved going to Boston Red Sox games (the 2004 Red Sox team even made a personal video full of good wishes and sent it to Cory at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital as he was recovering from his first transplant), he loved going to concerts and traveling whenever he got the opportunity.

Our Cardinal Story

As Cory spent his last year living out his final wishes we had many conversations about where we all thought he would be going when it was time for him to leave us. Of course if you knew Cory than you know these conversations were full of hope and dreams and lots of laughter. Even as we all felt the end drawing near, he was so tired physically and mentally but his concern was not of himself. He wanted to be sure our parents, my husband and I along with our children would be alright. He told us he would check in on us. He told us he would come back to visit as a bird and I don’t think it took any of us by surprise that this is the messenger he chose.

As long as I can remember my parents yard has been full of bird feeders. To my parents surprise the morning after his passing they were greeted by a cardinal. He was a new bird to their yard with a strong call and a bright red head. They had no doubt in their hearts that Cory was stopping in to tell us he had made it to where he was going. My dad has since made sure at least one feeder in their yard is always full of Cardinal seed. They see the cardinal every day.

Through research I have learned that cardinals are symbolic for many reasons. Here are the ones we feel best represent Corys spirit.”

  • Most birds migrate south for the winter; the cardinal weathers any storm.
  • A Cardinals call sounds like “cheer cheer” and is said to be the most uplifting call of any bird.
  • Cardinals stand as a symbol of strength, health and vitality.
  • Cardinals red color is associated with stability, survival and security.

Written by Sarah Mahan — Cory’s sister

A Cory Story...

If you have a Cory story to share, we would love to hear it!

(413) 433-0682

PO Box 484, East Longmeadow, MA 01028

(413) 433-0682

PO Box 484, East Longmeadow, MA 01028

Copyright © Cory J Garwacki Foundation.  All Right Reserved

Copyright © Cory J Garwacki Foundation.  All Right Reserved