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Stories of hope

Quinn Family: Madelyn’s Heart

Transplant recipient, Madelyn, holding a chalkboard commemorating her first day of 2nd grade

Madelyn Quinn is a thriving seven-year-old who is full of life, energy, joy and happiness. Madelyn’s smile is contagious, her laugh fills a room, and her heart is – well let’s just say her heart is really something extraordinary – a miracle. Madelyn has come a long way in just a short time and if you met her, you would never be able to tell how much pain and suffering she endured in her first two years of life. Madelyn’s story and journey is one in a trillion, and the fairy tale ending which we get to experience every day, is nothing short of a miracle. It is hoped that you reflect on what is truly important in life as you enjoy Madelyn’s story of perseverance, love, triumph, and selflessness from the family who made the ultimate sacrifice to give Madelyn another chance at life!

Madelyn Quinn was born on April 26, 2013 with a “hole in her heart”, a congenital heart defect known as a Ventricular Septal Defect, or a heart murmur. While Madelyn was all smiles on the outside, what was happening on the inside was very different. Madelyn’s heart failure worsened along with her energy levels and appetite. At six-months-old, Madelyn underwent her first open heart surgery. The procedure to close the hole in her heart was successful, however she developed heart block. Two additional open-heart surgeries were performed on young Madelyn in the next six months, implanting two different pacemakers to attempt to correct her heart block and fix her little heart.

Madelyn’s condition got significantly worse, and after months on a feeding tube, continued loss of energy, and overall “failure to thrive,” Madelyn was placed on the transplant waitlist on November 23, 2014. The thought of a new heart implanted into our one-year-old was very scary, but at the same time gave my wife, Alyson, and I much needed hope for a new beginning. For Madelyn’s entire life, it seemed that everything kept getting worse and worse, and now, for the first time, we were optimistic. A new heart would give Madelyn and our family a new life.

Heart recipient, Madelyn, smiling in hospital bed

Madelyn, 4 days post transplant

On March 4, 2015, Alyson and I received the best phone call of our lives. Our team at Stanford received a new heart that was a perfect match for Madelyn. On March 5, Madelyn received her heart transplant, and even though we were optimistic, we were very scared. We had no idea just how amazing and sudden the transformation that her new heart would provide to her. Alyson and I got to see Madelyn shortly after the transplant and for the first time in Madelyn’s life, she had color in her cheeks, she was warm to touch and looked like a brand new child. Just a few days after her transplant, she had her first meal and she ate like we had never seen her eat in her whole life. Her laughs were louder, her smiles were bigger and her joy was larger than life.

Madelyn is now five and a half years post-transplant and she is truly thriving, living her absolute best life. Our entire family has committed our lives to bring awareness to organ donation and transplantation. Madelyn is a speaker who loves to travel and share her story, with organizations such as UNOS, CareDx, DonateLife and local transplant organizations. Madelyn’s mother, Alyson, is part of advocacy groups and support groups for families who are going through what we went through. Furthermore, I pursued a job with a company who is 100% dedicated to transplant patients and who is the absolute leader in the field of transplantation. For the past three years, as a commercial leader with CareDx, we are bringing non-invasive testing to the field of transplantation to better predict injury and rejection of the transplanted organs, with the goal of extending the life of transplanted organs and the quality of life for transplant patients.

Madelyn is a silver medalist in the youth Olympiad at the Transplant Games in Salt Lake City and very excited to defend her medal in New Jersey, hopefully in 2021. Madelyn is excelling in the second grade and loves to ski, golf, play volleyball and soccer. Now, an older sister of her little brother Andrew, Madelyn really enjoys showing him the ropes and bossing him around. Madelyn’s heart transplant changed our lives and took us from the depths of despair to the peak of happiness. We are so grateful for so many people and organizations including the amazing pediatric transplant teams. Additionally, UNOS and the organ procurement organizations (OPOs) who all coordinated this miracle for little Madelyn, thank you for supporting UNOS’ mission and helping to improve transplant and save more lives.

To our donor family, words can’t even begin to express what your ultimate sacrifice and gift has done for our daughter, our entire family. We will forever honor your gift by promising that Madelyn and our family will dedicate our lives to the field of transplantation to carry on the torch of life.

Madelyn at the 2019 UNOS Soirée with father, Greg Quinn, and UNOS’ Brian Shepard and Lisa Schaffner


UNOS is continuously working to increase the number of transplants. You can contribute to this work by giving and encouraging others to give during #LifeGivingTuesday. Learn more.

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