At birth, doctors informed Andy and Donna Kozo that their son Brian’s heart “wasn’t built for a human body.”
It was upside down and backwards, and had several other complicated issues that plagued him throughout his life.
But earlier this year, after suffering from numerous health challenges, Brian received a life-saving gift - a new heart.
Brian is one of 100 known people with his type of anatomy, and only the second known person to have had a transplant with his anatomy, the Kozos said.
Two years ago, Brian began to get very ill. After having two pacemakers in one year with no success, he had a stent placed to relieve congestion of his liver. Eventually, the family was told he would need a heart transplant.
Unsure of what the future held and on the advice of doctors who said “let him live,” Andy and Donna took Brian to Europe to see Formula One racing for his 25th birthday.
“He had the best time of his life,” said Andy of Brian’s trip abroad.
While there, a casual conversation the Kozos had with someone they met at the races led to a visit with someone Brian dreamed of meeting — Niki Lauda, an Austrian former Formula One driver and a three-time F1 World Drivers’ Champion.
Not only did Brian meet Lauda, but 21 other drivers.
Within a month of their return home, Brian was admitted to the hospital where he spent five months waiting for a heart.
During that time, he proposed to and married his girlfriend, Tiffany.
Three weeks after he was discharged from the hospital after his transplant, he walked a 5K.
“A transplant is not a cure,” Donna said. “You basically trade one problem for a set of new problems.”
Brian takes about 30 pills a day — down from 70 a day — to help prevent rejection, and participates in cardiac rehab twice a week.
A machinist, Brian returned to work three months after his transplant but took on a new position.
In June, he hiked 7 miles. His dream is to one day climb the stairs at Tower One in New York City with his brothers in memory of the first responders who lost their lives in 9/11.