"I needed a miracle, and that miracle was Mike. He was my person," Brian Burkett tells PEOPLE
When Mike Snyder found out his co-worker and manager at AT&T, Brian Burkett, was in desperate need of a new liver, he didn’t hesitate to volunteer as a donor.
After a day of testing, doctors told Snyder of Fort Worth, Texas, that he was a match, but that he had a “fatty liver” and would need to lose weight in order to donate.
Determined to save his boss’ life, Snyder, an Iraq War veteran, shed 25 lbs. in three weeks by implementing workout and diet disciplines he picked up during his time in the Army.
“It was just something I had to do,” Snyder, 48, tells PEOPLE. “When somebody needs help, it’s just what you do. It was a no-brainer.”
Burkett was first diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver three years ago, but in March 2015, doctors at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas told him he would need an organ transplant if he wanted to live.
None of his family members were matches and the waiting list for a liver was long – Burkett was running out of time.
“I was deteriorating, it was obvious at that point I was going to die,” Burkett, 53, tells PEOPLE. “I needed a miracle, and that miracle was Mike. He was my person.”
Snyder immediately restricted his diet and upped his exercise routine to prep his liver for the transplant.
He visited the gym every morning at 5:15 a.m., spending exactly 30 minutes on the elliptical and 30 minutes on the treadmill.
For breakfast, Snyder ate a bowl of oatmeal. Lunch consisted of one boiled egg, three slices of turkey and one cup of cottage cheese. Dinner was chicken breast with broccoli and mushrooms.
After dinner, Snyder returned to the gym for another hour of cardio.
Snyder successfully donated 70% of his liver to his boss in September.
“When people are willing to do that for another human being, risking surgery, the impact is tremendous,” says Burkett. “He’s my hero. This was a huge act of love and I hold him in the highest esteem.”
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The co-workers are now best friends and talk to each other every day. Snyder, a grandfather of six, and Burkett, a grandfather of five, often have huge family dinners together.
“We’re brothers,” says Burkett. “Honestly, it’s like we’re family, since I have a part of his liver in me. He saved me.”