By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS) – A teacher from Pueblo is slowly adjusting to life with a new heart. In late January, Brian Montez thought he had asthma or pneumonia. He was shocked to learn his heart was failing.

Montez is just 39-years-old. He thought he was healthy until tests showed his heart was enlarged and no longer pumping properly. Luckily, the “Force” was with him.

“Star Wars has been a thing of ours,” said Montez.

(credit: CBS)

Brian, his wife, Reina and son, Corran are such devoted Star Wars fans they sometimes dress and play the part. But not even Yoda could have predicted what happened to Brian.

“I started feeling really fatigued, short of breath, tightness in my chest,” said Montez.

In a hospital in Pueblo, the middle school reading teacher learned his heart was enlarged and failing so rapidly he was airlifted to the University of Colorado Hospital. After days of testing, doctors concluded “Your only option is a transplant, that’s how weak your heart is,” said Montez.

On February first, Montez made the transplant list. With AB positive blood, the “Force” was with him.

“I’m what’s called a universal recipient. I could receive a transplant from anyone,” he explained.

Four days later, Montez had a donor heart.

“This new heart saved my life,” he said.

Back at UCHealth on February 19th, Montez was surprised by visitors from a galaxy not so far away.

(credit: CBS)

There were stormtroopers from the local 501st Legion and fighters from the Rebel Legion.

And the Montez family got VIP passes to Denver Comic Con.

“It feels really good right now,” said Montez.

Six-year-old Corran, named after a Jedi, was starstruck. Reina Montez was emotional.

“I’m just so happy that we got more days,” she said.

No trip to the dark side of the Force for this family. As Yoda would say “Grateful hearts, they have. Lucky, they are.”

February is heart month, and UCHealth has been drawing attention to heart health through patient stories, research and expert advice all month long. To learn some heart healthy tips, go to

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 since 1984. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.


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