A Mount Vernon, Missouri high school football player gets a new heart and a new outlook on life

MOUNT VERNON, Mo. (KY3) — When Mt. Vernon sophomore running back Preston Hardyman walked into summer football camp, the Mountaineers had big plans for him. “He would have had a big role in our JV team,” said Mt. Vernon head coach Tom Cox.

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

Cox took Preston out of practice and benched him. A movement he had no idea at the time was so important. “He went home,” Cox said. “And when he got home, his dad noticed his legs were swollen.”

“I’m a former doctor,” said Tim Hardyman, Preston’s father. “The first thing I thought was, well, if he was my age, I’d think you had congestive heart failure.”

Preston’s parents rushed him to Aurora ER.

“The doctor was so awesome,” Tim said. “And as soon as he saw the scan of his heart, he said we had to go.”

It was every parent’s nightmare and time was not on their side. A plane was sent to Monett to immediately transport Preston to Kansas City.

“He arrived at midnight and I arrived around 3 a.m.,” Tim said.

When Preston’s father arrived, the doctor told him that Preston’s heart had swelled to one of the biggest they had ever seen.

“The intensive care doctor just looked at me and said, ‘He had football practice yesterday? Tim said. “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 did not work. There was only one option left. Preston needed a new heart. “They told us that without it he wouldn’t survive,” Tim said.

Back in Mt. Vernon, the students held a fundraiser during the Logan-Rogersville game. They wore neon colors to brighten Preston’s day. “What touched me the most was when I saw a picture of the Logan-Rogersville fans,” Tim said. “And since the students, they were all in neon too.”

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

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

It worked. “When I go out for a walk, I enjoy being able to walk,” Preston said. “There were times in my room when I couldn’t even get up and go to the bathroom.”

The news spread during the game. Fundraising was no longer to support Preston while he waited for a heart. Now the money raised would be used to support Preston while he recovers from a heart. “It was really exciting for the student body to find out,” said Kadence Krempges, a Mt. Vernon senior who helped organize the event. “We do this for him and stay right behind him for this. It was really great to hear that he has a heart and is doing well right now.

As Preston lives out his 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 on the track this spring too. “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 am alive thanks to them. »

“There are a lot of other families who got a second chance because of their decision,” Tim said.

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

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