Peoria teen awaits life-saving and history-making organ transplants

Griffin Montejo was born with a rare congenital heart defect that impacts blood flow and prevents the left side of his heart from developing.
Published: Jul. 28, 2023 at 10:27 PM MST
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PEORIA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — A local teenager is awaiting life-saving surgery that could soon make history in Arizona. Griffin Montejo, 15, is hoping to become the state’s first pediatric heart and liver transplant recipient. “I’ve always known this day could come. I knew. I knew that my life would be difficult forever,” he said.

Griffin was born with a rare congenital heart defect known as Hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The serious condition impacts blood flow and prevents the left side of the heart from developing. By the time he was two-and-a-half, he underwent three open heart surgeries. “Knowing he will live life-long with difficulties is not for the faint at heart. No pun intended,” said his mother, Danielle Montejo.

He inspired his mother to become a nurse at Phoenix Children’s. For eight years, she worked in the same cardiovascular ICU that’s now caring for her son as he awaits a heart and liver transplant. “It’s scary,” Danielle said. “I know as a nurse that heart transplant is a big deal and there’s lots of obstacles you have to overcome. And doing two organs just adds on to that.”

Dr. Bethany Wisotzkey is a heart transplant physician part of Griffin’s medical team. She explained that his heart defect caused irreparable damage to his liver, which is why he now needs two transplants. She said this surgery will mark a first in Arizona. “There’s been about 30 pediatric heart and liver transplants done total in the country. So, it is not a common procedure and so it is a big deal,” she said.

Griffin recently spent over two weeks in the hospital, waiting. “It is difficult waiting for the call. Danielle said. “Every day. Anytime I get a call from the hospital with that area code, I jump to my phone and hope that maybe this is it.”

Griffin is waiting for his perfect donors and waiting for the next chapter of his life to start after surgery. “I’ve always loved to hike and backpack. I’ve always wanted to do the Arizona trail and Grand Canyon with my dad,” he said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help this family with medical expenses. The Montejos have two other children at home and said they could use some extra support during this time.

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