DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Joseph Haskins was born with a broken heart and on Thursday he returned to Baylor Scott & White to see and hold it. For real.​

“It’s huge!” he exclaimed as cardiac pathologist Dr. Bill Roberts unwrapped the preserved, but badly damaged heart that doctors replaced in a transplant operation in September.

It was a day decades in the making.​

Joseph Haskins’ old heart (CBS 11)

“Every day I got stronger and stronger,” says Haskins. “I haven’t felt this good since I was in my late 20s or so.”​

Haskins has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic condition that destroys he connective tissues in his heart. He had a heart murmur at just 9 years old.

After a valve replacement years later, his condition continued to deteriorate. Prior to his transplant he says he became winded just getting dressed, tying his shoes or walking across the room.​

“As I started getting worse, there were times I would sleep all day, because that was all I had the energy to do.”​

He needed a heart transplant, but because of his tricky genetic history, three transplant centers told him ‘no’.​

“It took us a couple of days to pick ourselves up off the floor after that,” says Kim, his wife of more than three decades. “It was real devastating.”​

Then the family found Baylor Scott & White.

Not only were doctors not deterred by the genetic condition, they were working on a clinical trial that could perhaps give him a new heart sooner, with the understanding that it could also give him Hepatitis C, which it did. ​

“So the idea is, would someone like the first good heart, regardless of whether it has Hepatitis C or not, and then can can we go ahead and cure the Hepatitis C,” says Dr. Robert Gottlieb, who wrote what is being called the Trojan-C trial. “Take the gift, separate out the trojan that’s loaded into the gift and be able to reclaim that organ and be able to help the patient live longer and better.”​

Which it did. Haskins says he has no regrets.​

“When you get to the state I was in, even if couldn’t have gotten rid of the Hepatitis C, I would have taken it because it would have given me more time than what I had left with my heart. I couldn’t lose even if I couldn’t get rid of the Hepatitis.”​

Now, Haskins is virus free with a brand new heart, and new hope for more good days ahead.​

“I can breathe. I can do things now I haven’t been able to do in years. I am blessed that I got here,” says Haskins, his eyes suddenly shining with unshed tears. “The institution saved my life, that’s all I can say.”​

For more details on the research, click here.