Peoria teen recovering at home after historic pediatric heart and liver transplant

Griffin Montejo waited six weeks for a heart and liver donor and spent two weeks recovering from the 14-hour surgery.
Published: Sep. 16, 2023 at 8:16 PM MST
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PEORIA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The last couple of months have been a roller coaster of emotions for 15-year-old Griffin Montejo and his family. They’ve felt fear, anxiety, excitement, relief, and now gratitude. “So happy to be home,” said Griffin. The Montejo household is whole again. “He’s strong, and he’s a warrior,” said Griffin’s mom, Danielle Montejo. She’s also a nurse.

Griffin spent eight weeks at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. He waited six weeks for a heart and liver donor and spent two weeks recovering from the 14-hour surgery. Danielle got updates every hour on the night of the operation. “They text you the new heart was in and beating. That was just such a huge sigh of relief, and then a couple hours later, we got the text that the new liver was in and doing well,” said Danielle.

Discharge day was celebrated with a parade. The hospital halls were lined with nurses and doctors holding signs and handing out messages of encouragement written on hearts. “He was ready, so we were ready. So, we packed up our stuff and got out there before anyone changed their mind,” said Danielle.

There’s been a large outpouring of support from the community. An American Legion event raised $6,500, and the nonprofit presented a check to the family on Saturday.

Griffin said this journey has given him a new perspective and a deeper appreciation for the little things in life, like being able to walk and sleep in his own bed. “I just took it for granted, but now that I’m home and after the experience, I realize how much this house means to me, how much they mean to me,” said Griffin, referring to his family.

Initially, being the first pediatric heart and liver transplant recipient in Arizona was a scary title for Griffin to hold. Only about two dozen operations like this have ever happened in children nationwide. But now that he’s on the other side, he feels pride. “It’s awesome actually,” he said.

It’s been tough to grasp that for Griffin to live, another family had to lose a loved one. “That’s a difficult emotion to process because we know that family is grieving, but through that grief they were able to give life to Griffin,” said Danielle.

As the teen heals, he dreams about future goals in his second chance at life. “I want to go after the Arizona Trail,” he said. Griffin said he hopes to one day meet the donor family so he can thank them in person for the gift of life. The Montejos encourage everyone to sign up to be an organ donor.

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