PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WPRI) — Not a day goes by where Mike Brennan isn’t grateful to be alive.

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 last year.

The surgery was a success, and after months of recovery, Brennan is back at it, living his life to the fullest after it was nearly cut short.

“It feels really good, I can’t even tell you,” Brennan said. “I’m grateful for the things I have in my life. I’m grateful for my family and friends. I’m surrounded by love, I’m surrounded by good fortune.”

Courtesy: Mike Brennan

The fact his new lease on life came as another family experienced unimaginable loss isn’t lost on Brennan. He’s forever grateful to the man who saved his life, and he plans to honor him every single day moving forward.

“We don’t have the most money, we don’t have the nicest things, but we have a lot of love in our home and I have a lot of love outside of my home,” Brennan said. “I have a lot of love at school and I love what I do … [his] gift has helped me continue to do those things.”

Brennan received a letter from his donor’s mother back in March.

“We lost our son on April 1, 2021,” she wrote. “He died as a result of a brain injury.”

Through the letter, Brennan learned his donor was a teacher and soccer coach who loved trucks, dirt bikes and hunting.

“He was a loving, kind and funny son, brother, husband and, most importantly, a dad,” the letter continued. “He loved life. He was a quiet soul, but had a great sense of humor.”

“There are so many similarities between the two of us,” Brennan said. “I think about him often, and this letter gave me some insight into who he was and the kind of person he was.”

When asked whether he would like to meet his donor’s family, Brennan said absolutely.

“I would,” he said. “It would mean a lot to me to be able to wrap my arms around his mom and say ‘thank you.'”

Brennan isn’t alone. His donor’s mother wrote that she would love to meet him one day as well.

As for when, Brennan said it’s all up to them.

“Whenever they’re ready for it,” Brennan said. “I’m definitely ready for it.”

Until then, Brennan plans on piecing together everything he wants his donor’s family to know when he meets them for the very first time.

“I just want to tell them ‘thank you,'” Brennan said. “I want to tell them, ‘I’m here for you, and I want to ease your pain … I want you to know that I’m just happy to be present for all of the things going on around me.'”

“One of the things I keep thinking is that I hope I’m enough for them,” he added. “I just hope that they can look at me and feel some sense of relief that their son did not die in vain and that his good will and good nature has been carried on.”

His donor’s mother wrote that she’s so proud of her son for being an organ donor.

“I remember talking to him about it when he was younger,” she wrote. “He asked me about it once when he was renewing his driver’s license … I know in my heart that he lives on today in those he helped with his gifts.”

Courtesy: Mike Brennan

Brennan said his donor’s selflessness is what gets him through each and every day.

“It’s a beautiful gift,” Brennan said. “I do feel a little bit of survivor’s guilt sometimes where I ask, ‘Why me? Why was I blessed to have this gift, and why did it have to happen this way?’ But I also think of the people in my life who depend on me and who I need to be there for … I try to turn it around and look at it for what it is — a gift.”

“I try to remain grateful for that gift and not take it for granted,” he continued. “Every day, I wake up and try to be the best version of me that I can be.”

Brennan hopes that his story will inspire others not only to become organ donors, but to also give back in any way they can.