CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Born with only half a heart, most of Lyman resident Bryson Quinney’s childhood was spent in hospitals, where he underwent multiple surgeries and received treatment for subsequent liver complications.
Thanks to a heartfelt gift from an organ donor in 2020, then-13-year-old Bryson was able to receive a heart transplant and is now living “his best life,” said father Eric Quinney.
“He’s playing football, soccer, baseball, pretty much doing whatever he wants to do, all because of organ donation, all because someone made that ultimate sacrifice and gift of life,” Eric said.
Hoping to raise more awareness about these life-saving opportunities, the Quinney family has teamed up with Uinta County Rep. Wendy Schuler to advocate for Senate File 38, a piece of legislation that would issue Wyoming drivers special license plates promoting organ and tissue donations.
“[Seeing these license plates] is a great opportunity for people to start conversations about organ donation,” Eric said. “A lot of the time these decisions come during highly emotional, tragic events and sometimes people are not super comfortable about making organ donations because they’ve never talked about it.”
Senate File 38 recently passed its final reading and was introduced to the House on Jan. 24.
The family advocated for a similar file during last year’s legislative session, but it failed in the Senate.
Eric hopes this time around the bill can be enacted and advance their awareness efforts.
“We’re making a big effort this year to hopefully get this passed [in the House] on our second year of trying,” he said. “Our goal is to continue with our efforts and spread information however we can. This is certainly one piece of the puzzle in terms of getting the word out.”
Currently, 39 states, including nearby Nebraska and South Dakota, have these special license plates.
Donor Alliance, a Denver-based nonprofit that facilitates the donation and recovery of transplantable tissue and organs in Colorado and Wyoming, is a supporter of the family’s actions.
Cheryl Talley, director of public relations and communications at Donor Alliance, said passing legislation like Senate File 38 can encourage registration and promote conversations about organ donations.
“The wait list [for transplants] does not wait,” she said. “There is good inside all of us, whether you can donate today as a living donation or upon your death as a deceased one. It’s important that everyone registers … and discusses it with their loved ones so they know their decision.”
In 2021, 234 organ and tissue donors made 642 transplants possible in Wyoming. About 130 residents are on the waiting list for an organ transplant.
Last year, 62% of Wyomingites signed up to be donors, one of the highest registration rates in the nation, Talley said.
“Wyomingites are really wonderful neighbors,” she said. “You can really see that neighborly feeling of helping your friend in need when they say yes to being an organ and tissue donor.”