NewsCovering Colorado


2-year-old girl, whose family was once helped through Denver7 Gives, has successful heart transplant

Posted at 6:57 AM, Mar 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-11 08:57:36-04

AURORA, Colo. — A 2-year-old had a heart transplant and was discharged from Children’s Hospital nearly a year after our viewers helped her family through Denver7 Gives.

When we met the Griego family in 2023, their vehicle had been stolen near the hospital. Our viewers raised $8,000 for the family to help with expenses.

“The worry every day was rough,” mother Debra Griego told Denver7.

Her daughter Crystal has ventricular septal defect (VSD) — a hole in her heart present at birth.

For a year — through surgeries, tubes and close calls — she waited at Children’s Hospital for a donor heart.

“It was so critical that we got a heart as soon as we could for her that was compatible for her body, but it took over a year and she was becoming sicker,” said Dr. Melanie Everitt, medical director of heart transplants.

Children’s Hospital is a large heart transplant center and perform 15 to 20 heart transplants per year in children, which is considered high for a pediatric center.

On Jan. 6, Dr. Everitt called Debra to tell her they had a donor.

“When I got that call, all I could think about first off was that somebody else will say goodbye to their child that day and so that was heavy on my heart,” Debra said.

The next day, Dr. Everett and her team performed a heart transplant on Crystal. Her recovery went even better than expected.


“The moment that they took her off the bypass and her heart started functioning — her new heart, her gift — started functioning fully, immediately for her,” Debra said.

Less than a month after surgery, Crystal said goodbye to her Children’s Hospital family and finally went home.

Crystal will take medication for the rest of her life because she is now immune compromised.

“Crystal's favorite things to do so far have been eating, since you didn't get to eat for the entire year that she was in hospital — her heart was just so sick that she wouldn't tolerate any food,” Debra said.


Debra is happy to have both of her children home and eager to return to New Mexico.

She wants to raise awareness about organ donation.

"I'm so grateful that in their hardest days that they made a decision to donate life because if it wasn't for their selfless decision, I wouldn't have her here,” she said.

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