For metro man born with heart defect, transplant gives him chance to live life he loves

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For someone born with a heart condition, life can be filled with compromises and moments sitting on the sideline.

Andrew Widman grew up that way, but thanks to a new heart, he has a whole new life.

“They found a heart for me. I’m having surgery in the morning,” Andrew Widman said as he called his wife.

That was the moment Andrew Widman had been waiting for- for three months.

Widman was born with a major heart defect, one that doctors said would require him to have a heart transplant by the age of 20.

“Transposition of the great arteries, where his aorta and his pulmonary artery were switched at birth,” said Dr. Anthony Magalski from St. Luke’s.

“The blood was flowing the opposite ways,” explained Widman.

It meant Andrew’s childhood was different from most.

“I could never run the track, so I was always the last one in from the gym. I was late always at my next class. I watched them bike, I watched them play sports. I mean I did get to play golf and stuff, but I never got to do any sports where there was running or biking involved,” said Widman.

For the most part, Andrew felt relatively normal. He got married, had two sons, and a successful career.

But 2008 marked a change.

“I had what’s called a TIA- it’s basically a small stroke.”

By 2014, he’d had two more strokes and by 2016, his health got even worse.

“Over time because of that correction, one of his heart ventricles weakened, and caused him to develop congestive heart failure,” explained Dr. Magalski.

“In 2016, I was leaving work in the early afternoon, I was coming home, and I was getting into bed,” said Widman. “A big thing was that I could not walk up our steps, and we live downstairs and our kids are upstairs, so they had to come downstairs to give me a kiss, and that was tough.”

On December 29th, Widman’s doctor had the conversation he knew would happen eventually he needed a heart transplant soon. At 7:45 on March 29th he found out he’d be the 745th heart transplant recipient at St. Luke’s Hospital.

Since then, every aspect of Widman’s life has changed.

“You’re going home and you’re not sick now. For the first time in my life I could say that I’m not actually sick,” Widman said.

He got a new license plate for the time of day he found out about his heart, visitors to his home get to leave with a meaningful parting gift, his pills are anti-rejection pills instead of heart pills, and most importantly, he gets to do the things he never did before.

“It’s something that I don’t know. It’s new. We get to walk around our block. I went to look for bikes yesterday for the first time,” said Widman. “To play catch with my sons again and to be able to just go and watch my sons play baseball and everything else- it’s just great.”

While his heart has always been full of his love for life, the new heart gives him a chance to finally live the life he loves.