ATLANTA -- Michael Haynes is diligently training for his first AJC Peachtree Road Race. In addition to jogging in his Riverdale neighborhood, he has a routine of lifting weights and cross training.
He planned to run the 10k last year. Instead he watched on TV, from his hospital room.
"I had come to find out that fluid was building up on my lungs because my heart wasn't beating strong enough," Haynes said.
In fact, Michael's condition was dire.
"It felt like a gorilla was on my back," he said.
He needed a new heart.
Admitted Valentine's Day 2011, with a broken heart, he passed the time with family and friends and by putting together puzzles. Doctors, nurses and patients signed the boards wishing him well.
Then, July 2 of last year, Michael's doctor had the news he had been praying for: "He said, 'I'm 99% sure I've got a heart for you' and he said, 'I'm going to get it right now'," Haynes explained. "All of the emotions. It's like wow. This day has come."
Post-surgery, the father of three was a changed man - living in the moment.
"I sat outside and listened just listened to the birds chirp, the leaves crumble, the wind just blowing, it was amazing," he said. "It was almost like being reborn."
But his 'rebirth' came with haunting questions about the man who gave him this second chance.
"Who is this person? Who is this angel? His family?" Haynes wondered.
He's now in touch with the mother of the 43-year-old man whose heart keeps him alive. They exchange letters and holiday cards:
"I thank God she and his family were willing to donate his organs," Michael's mother Alice Haynes said. "I think it's great Michael is staying in contact with her."
Michael's focus is now on giving back:
"Since this happened to me, I'm a donor," Haynes explained.
His focus is also on July 4, 2012.
"I vowed when I came out of my sedation, I was going to do the Peachtree Road Race," he said.
Now 44 years old, Michael will be running in memory of the man who lost his life, then saved Michael's.
"It's going to be emotional," he said. "Whew. It's emotional now."
He's also overwhelmed by gratitude for his medical team at Emory.
"What can I say about them? They're something God made," Haynes said while fighting back tears.
Michael promises to follow his nurse's advice for the course that's challenging, even for top athletes. She advised him to walk if he gets tired while running from Buckhead to Midtown Atlanta.
"Hey, I gotta new life," Haynes said. "Let's go do it. Let's go get it done."