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Heart recipient
Age 46 ~ Bonner Springs, KS

Sponsored by Astellas Pharma US, Inc.

Merle Zuel was born with a defective aortic valve which was discovered when he was ten. At the age of 43, a heart transplant was inevitable. Said Merle, "A very thoughtful family gave me my life back." He had been sick for so long, he had almost forgotten what it was like to feel good. Now he volunteers much of his time to inspire others to donate life.

Merle''s Story

Merle Zuel was born with a defective aortic valve which was discovered when he was ten. In 1996, at the age of 34, he was hospitalized for severe congestive heart failure. A few years later, Merle had a pacemaker/ defibrillator implant which saved his life several times.

By November 2005, a transplant was inevitable. Merle had quite a lengthy battle to get healthy enough to be considered for a transplant, and was finally activated on the transplant list on December 18, 2006, after yet another near-fatal rhythm and collapse. “Sixty-seven days later, a very thoughtful family gave me my life back, and I received a new heart. I felt better almost immediately and the heart was pumping strong from day one,” Merle reported. Merle’s girlfriend works as a respiratory therapist at the hospital where he received his transplant and was there for him throughout the procedure and recovery.

"I was fortunate to recover with only minor complications and setbacks, and now I feel better than I have in 15 years or more,” he emphasized. I have my strength and vitality, which I had long since given up on. As one doctor put it before my transplant, ‘you’ve been sick so long you probably don’t remember what it’s like to feel good.’ I do now. I am a 45-year old male who happens to have been blessed with a very healthy vital organ and am living life to the fullest.”

Merle is very grateful for his renewed life, and he regularly visits pre- and post-transplant patients to help provide support and encouragement. In May 2007, he organized a benefit concert, MerleJam, for transplant social services in Kansas City, which raised more than $7,000, followed by a second concert in 2008, which raised more than $4,000. He also participates in donor family recognition ceremonies and helps to raise money for Team Mo-Kan for the U.S. Transplant Games. Merle’s website,, educates people about organ donation and transplant and inspires them to donate life.