CONCORD, N.C. - Brandon McNeely shouldn't be alive. In March, the Concord husband and father was in the hospital for weeks as his health deteriorated.
When he was 12-years-old, McNeely was diagnosed with a form of childhood cancer and underwent 21 chemotherapy treatments that he said damaged his heart.
At age 34, the damaging effects surfaced when McNeely found himself in need of a heart transplant and searching for a donor.
McNeely had even started to plan his own funeral.
"I shouldn't be here," he said.
On March 26, 2016, that all changed. On Good Friday, his family received the call that the hospital found a donor match, and McNeely would receive a new heart.
McNeely described the moment as bittersweet, knowing another family had just lost a loved one.
"There's not a moment that goes by that I don't think about my donor, because I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for a donor," he said.
Since the transplant, the two families have communicated once after exchanging letters, which McNeely initiated. He said his donor's family described how much their loved one cherished human life, something McNeely can attest to firsthand.
"It's kind of impossible to wake up and not be grateful," he told Channel 9.
Two days before Christmas, he posted a heartfelt thank you letter on social media in hopes the family would see it in time for Christmas.
It read, in part: "Wrapping my arms around you all so that you can all hear that his heartbeat for humanity is still alive… Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays."
When the donor family is ready, McNeely hopes to meet them face-to-face.
"For me, there's nothing tangible or materialistic I can ever receive that would be greater than what I've got right now," he said.
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