By 2008, he was dying.
“I went into deep heart failure,” he said.
Hardee went to Duke University Hospital in January 2009, waiting on a heart transplant.
A month later, he got the news that he would be receiving a heart from a 24-year-old man who had been killed.
“That donor is part of me now. I will protect him as I protect myself,” Hardee said.
Within weeks, Hardee, who previously couldn't walk to the mailbox, was walking a mile. He was a University of North Carolina Tar Heels fan thankful to be in Duke hands.
“They had a shirt made for me that said, ‘I got my new heart from Duke' on the front,” Hardee said. “I had a big UNC ram placed on the back that said, ‘I still bleed Carolina blue.’”
As Hardee was recovering in spring 2009, his wife, Ellen Hardee, started to feel sick.
“I thought I was tired (of) living out of the hotel for so long,” she said.
Doctors soon discovered that Ellen Hardee had a rare disease that required a kidney transplant. Her younger sister was a perfect match.
In June, Ellen Hardee got a new kidney and a new perspective on life.
“You wake up each day and you've got a day you may not would have had,” she said.
Travis Hardee said the experiences helped him understand what life is about.
“You understand what kind of gift you have received,” he said.
More than 3,000 North Carolinians are waiting on organ transplants. Some organs can be donated while the patient is still alive.
People can register to become an organ donor online or in person at the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles.