PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Mike Brennan is more than thankful for his second chance at life.
Earlier this month, the physical education teacher at Thompson Middle School in Newport and assistant football and basketball coach at Portsmouth High School received a life-saving heart transplant.
It took Brennan a while to get to where he is now. He suffered nearly two decades’ worth of health problems and underwent 11 heart procedures prior to the transplant.
His doctor told him that if he didn’t get a new heart, he wouldn’t still be here.
“He said, ‘if we didn’t do this, you wouldn’t make it to Christmas,’ and that was sobering, thinking about how I might have left my family at any time,” Brennan recalled.
As Brennan recovered, the community rallied around him and his family.
When he was released from the hospital nine days after receiving the transplant, he was welcomed home with a drive-by parade.
“[I have] an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the community that I live in, for the family that I have, the love and support from all of my family and friends,” Brennan said.
“You’re seeing your echo, you’re feeling your echo. What you put into the community and all the love that you put out without asking for anything in return,” he continued tearfully. “I felt like George Bailey from ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ in the end, when he gets to see how lucky he is.”
Brennan knows his second chance comes as another family experiences unimaginable loss. While that itself is a lot for him to carry, he said he is not going to disappoint them.
“His death will not be in vain,” Brennan said. “I will do my best to honor him.”
While his recovery is ongoing, Brennan said he’s feeling great and walking every day.
“I’m up to five miles a day,” he said. “I walk in the morning and the afternoon and at night. I’m just trying to build my stamina up and get back to good health … I miss teaching, coaching and I’m just trying to get back to everybody in a real way.”
Brennan said he plans to cherish every moment with his family, knowing that the outcome could’ve been very different.
“If this went the other way for me? Who gets to walk out of here with more love in their back pocket than I had? Everyone should be so lucky,” he said.
If everything goes as planned, Brennan said he should return to the classroom and the sidelines by the fall.
Until then, the community is continuing to support Brennan through the remainder of his recovery, and a blood drive has been scheduled in his honor.
Anyone who wishes to participate is asked to make an appointment with the R.I. Blood Center online using the donor code 5024.