TAMPA (WFLA) – A father from Clearwater put his life on the line serving in the U.S. Army.

Now, 49-year-old Hector Fernandez is hospitalized and away from his family because of a life-threatening heart condition.

“Even though these hard times are happening,” he said, “they don’t outweigh the kindness and compassion I’ve seen.”

During his decade of service starting in 1994, Fernandez was deployed around the world to Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.  

Seven years ago, the father of four learned he had a congenital heart defect from a gene mutation.

“It’s been a long seven years of seeing him get worse and worse and nothing has gotten him down yet,” his wife Amy Fernandez said.

For a month now, Amy visits her husband every day since he’s been in the ICU at Tampa General Hospital.

“He’s got such a strong team of doctors and nurses looking out for him,” she said.

From his hospital bed, Fernandez told 8 On Your Side his condition has progressed to the point where he needs a new heart before he can go home.

“Those donor hearts, you never know when they become available,” he said. “So they told me to expect maybe shortest two weeks or maybe a couple months that I have to wait, probably through the holidays.”

 “If we had a date,” his wife said, “it would make it easier to know, but you wake up each morning is this the day the heart is going to come?”

As he waits for a heart transplant, Fernandez is holding on to hope by leaning on his family and the lifelong friends he made while serving his country. Some of them, he said, wished him a happy Veterans Day on Thursday.

“And they’re pulling for me, just like they did back in the day,” Fernandez said. “And now they’re here in my corner again. I love all my brothers that were there with me then and its just been an awesome reminder of these lifelong bonds I’ve had through the service and through my life.”

A fundraiser has been set up to help the Fernandez family through this challenging time.