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Getting a new heart and a new friend

Two friends reunite at the Transplant patient and donor picnic.

Posted: Jul 30, 2018 8:21 AM
Updated: Jul 30, 2018 8:37 AM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Hundreds of people came out to Soldiers' Field on Sunday for the Transplant patient and donor picnic. 

One of them was 10-year-old Madeline Neilsen. 

"I was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which means the right side of my heart didn't develop," she said. 

Another is Mark Hunziker. 

"I had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy ... I was having congestive heart failure and was just totally going downhill to where things just weren't working," he said.

Each a heart transplant survivor, and together, 'The 29 Club.'

"I got my heart the 29th of May," Hunziker said. 

"And I got my heart the 29th of June," Neilsen said. 

"So we're the 29 club," Hunziker said. "She's the president."

The two met at a transplant dinner hosted by Mayo Clinic and have been friends ever since. They have some advice for people still waiting for a second chance at life. 

"'B positive' was my blood type but it became my motto. Just be positive. It doesn't do any good to not be positive, and it'll happen," Hunziker said. 

"It comes at the least expected ... be ready whenever," Neilsen said. 

Ready for a new heart and maybe even a new friend. 

To learn how to become an organ donor, find more information here

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