Mount Vernon, Mo. high school football player receives new heart, new outlook on life

A Missouri high school student went from playing football to having heart surgery. (Source: KY3)
Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 9:14 AM CDT
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MOUNT VERNON, Mo. (KY3) - When Mt. Vernon sophomore running back Preston Hardyman entered summer football camp, the Mountaineers had big plans for him. “He would have had a big role on our JV team,” said Tom Cox, head coach of Mt. Vernon.

But at one practice on August 11, those plans changed. “He was just so sluggish throughout, said Cox. “And I finally said to him, ‘Preston, what’s up with you?’ I wasn’t mad at him. But it was so out of character. I was just like, ‘What’s going on?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, coach, I’ve just been so tired lately.’”

Cox pulled Preston from practice and sat him down on the bench. A move he had no idea at the time was so important. “He went home,” said Cox. “And when he got home, his dad noticed that his legs were swollen.”

“I’m a former medic,” said Tim Hardyman, Preston’s father. “First thing I thought was, well, if he was my age, I would think that you had congestive heart failure.”

Preston’s parents rushed him to the emergency room in Aurora.

“The doctor there was so great,” said Tim. “And as soon as he saw the CT of his heart, he said we’ve got to go.”

It was every parent’s nightmare and time wasn’t on their side. A plane was flown into Monett to fly Preston immediately to Kansas City.

“He got there at midnight and I got there about 3 a.m.,” said Tim.

When Preston’s dad got there doctor’s told him Preston’s heart had swelled to one of the largest they’d ever seen.

“The ICU doctor, he just looked at me and said, ‘He had football practice yesterday?’” said Tim. “I said, ‘Coach made him take his helmet off and sit down because he was so tired, though.’ And he said, ‘Well, he probably saved his life.’”

Doctors tried a procedure to help his heart. It didn’t work. There was only one option left. Preston needed a new heart. “They told us without this, he won’t survive,” said Tim.

Back at Mt. Vernon, students organized a fundraiser at the Logan-Rogersville game. They wore neon colors to brighten Preston’s day. “The thing that got to me the most was when I saw a picture of the Logan-Rogersville fans,” said Tim. “And saw that the students, they were all in neon too.”

But the night before, Preston got a call. An organ donor had died at the hospital. Their heart was a match for Preston.

“I think the toughest moment was watching him go away for the heart transplant,” said Tim. “Knowing they were going to take his heart out and put the other one in and hoping it would work.”

It did work. “When I go outside walking, I appreciate being able to walk,” said Preston. “There were those times in my room I couldn’t even get up and go to the bathroom.”

Word spread at the game. The fundraiser was no longer to support Preston while he waited for a heart. Now the money raised would go to support Preston while he recovered from getting a heart. “It was really exciting for the student body to know,” said Kadence Krempges, a senior at Mt. Vernon who helped organize the event. “We’re doing this for him and just staying behind him for this. It was really awesome to hear he’s getting a heart and that he’s good right now.”

As Preston lives life at the Ronald McDonald House in Kansas City, he can’t wait to get back to playing football. Doctors say he should be able to run track this spring too.”I won’t run the 400, though,” Preston said with a laugh. “I’ll run the 100 or 200, probably.”

And Preston wants the heart donor’s family to know what they mean to him. “Thank you,” he said. " I’m alive because of them.”

“There are many other families that were given second chances because of their decision,” said Tim.

Including Preston’s teammates, who bring his jersey with them to every game.

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