PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A battle between life and death has finally come to an end for a local teacher and coach.
After nearly two decades’ worth of health problems, Mike Brennan, a physical education teacher at Thompson Middle School in Newport and an assistant football and basketball coach at Portsmouth High School, has finally received what he needs to survive: a new heart.
His wife Margie tells 12 News it wouldn’t have been possible without support from the Aquidneck Island community.
“The only time I’ve seen my husband cry over this is just the fact that the community has been so great about this,” Margie said. “Supporting us as a family.”
“Mike prides himself with every child he ever worked with, from tee ball to physical education,” she continued. “He builds relationships first.”
It took a while for Mike to get to where he is now. He struggled with health problems for 16 years and underwent 11 heart procedures.
Margie said her husband’s heart was so damaged, he had been relying on a motorized machine to survive prior to his transplant.
Mike’s son Luke is on the Portsmouth High School football team and said he thinks of his dad whenever he is on the field.
“A lot of times, I think of all that he’s taught me, technique-wise, but mentally too,” Luke said. “You’re having a tough game, tough play, you put it aside and you just keep moving on.”
The past several years haven’t been easy for the 15-year-old and his two sisters. Luke said he’s still scared of losing his dad.
“He gets scared too,” Luke said of his father. “That’s my biggest mentor right there. I love him, and knowing he gets scared too kind of makes me feel better about it. Not everyone is so brave all the time. You just kind of get through it.”
Margie said prior to his heart transplant, Mike made a promise to his doctors.
“‘I promise I will make sure I use that heart and give back to the community,'” she recalled him saying. “I laughed and said, ‘Don’t you see you already are?'”
Margie said Mike is feeling better every day and will hopefully be able to return home from the hospital by mid-April, but the first three months following his transplant are critical, meaning he has to be extremely careful.
In the meantime, the community continues to rally behind Mike.
A GoFundMe page set up for Mike and his family has so far raised more than $61,000.
Those who wish to learn more about becoming an organ donor are encouraged to contact New England Donor Services at (800) 446-6362.