Donation and Transplantation in the News
By Eric Quinney, the Father of Bryson Quinney, Heart Transplant Recipient
How it started
This is the story of how the Donate Life Wyoming specialty license plate bill was passed. In October of 2006, Bryson was born with several congenital heart defects. He underwent three open heart surgeries within the first three years of his life. As his body grew, the existing heart couldn’t keep up with demand, and Bryson attended 6th Grade with Oxygen and an IV Pump strapped to his back. In 2019, Bryson’s anatomy also caused damage to his liver, and doctors listed him for transplant in October of that year. Every day, we anxiously awaited the call that could give Bryson a new lease on life.
In January of 2020, we went to the hospital for a medication change and received unexpected news—the plans had changed, and a new heart had become available. We immediately made phone calls to inform family and friends, filling the air with excitement and anxiety. As the surgery time approached, the doctor entered and informed us that the heart wasn’t the best match. They declined the opportunity, and Bryson remained in the hospital, waiting for the next chance. While we wanted a new heart for Bryson, we were also aware that a tragedy would have to occur for that to happen. This hope weighed heavily on our hearts. Finally, on March 5, 2020, the special day arrived when Bryson received the greatest gift that anyone could give.
While Bryson waited in the hospital to receive a new heart, he met a girl, a heart transplant recipient his same age who was waiting for her second heart transplant. They quickly became friends and shared a special bond. She had been waiting in the hospital for almost a year. Bryson’s heart came, and he was able to go home a few weeks after, while MacKenzie continued to wait. Time ran out on her wait, and she passed onto the other side without receiving a heart. This was deeply impactful; from that moment, Bryson was determined to do more. He knew that receiving the gift of life was not enough. He needed to do more; he wanted to do more.
Shortly after going home from his heart transplant, Bryson was asked to speak at a Donate Life Event in Salt Lake City, where they introduced a new License Plate for Utah featuring a Donate Life Logo to help spread awareness about the importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation. On the way home, Bryson asked if Wyoming had such a license plate. The answer was “No.” Bryson said we needed to change that, and from that moment, the effort began to honor MacKenzie. We contacted our local State Senator, and legislation was written to have a Specialty License Plate in Wyoming.
New Specialty Donate Life License Plate in Wyoming
Bryson’s journey as a heart transplant recipient played a pivotal role in changing legislation. The legislation was introduced during the 2022 Legislative Session. Bryson gave powerful testimony to the Transportation Committee, who passed the bill unanimously. Unfortunately, time was not on our side, and the bill died on the floor without getting a vote. This did not deter the effort, and we came back stronger than ever in 2023. Bryson again testified in the Transportation Committee on both the House and Senate Side. We emailed the legislators and received support from many groups.
After a lot of grassroots efforts, the legislation passed and was signed by the Governor. Beginning in January of 2024, a specialty license plate will be available in Wyoming. This will help create conversations as families drive down the road and will be instrumental in helping people choose to be organ donors. While MacKenzie may not have received her heart in time, this effort in her honor will hopefully save many more lives as people become educated and elect to become organ, eye and tissue donors. We must not only be on the receiving end of gifts, but we must also do more to pay it forward.