SoCal native celebrates 25th anniversary of her heart transplant days after turning 25

Denise Dador Image
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
SoCal native celebrates 25th birthday, heart transplant anniversary
Hannah Grinnan received a heart transplant at Loma Linda University Medical Center when she was just a few days old. She recently celebrated her 25th birthday and the 25th anniversary of her heart transplant.

LOMA LINDA, Calif. (KABC) -- In 1985, Loma Linda University Medical Center did the first successful infant heart transplant. Through the years, they've done hundreds more.

One of their patients who received a heart as a newborn just hit a significant landmark. Eleven days after her 25th birthday, Hannah Grinnan celebrated the 25th anniversary of her heart transplant.

"I love my life. I love my doctors, and I love being a heart transplant recipient," she said.

It's a milestone her surgeon, world renowned infant heart transplant pioneer Dr. Leonard Bailey, had hoped for but didn't live to see. His colleague, Dr. Richard Chinnock, recalls many conversations about the likelihood of longevity.

"When Hannah got her transplant, we'd only been doing it for about 10 years," Chinnock said. "We had no idea what was possible."

Hannah was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

"I didn't think that I could take a baby home and just hold it until it passed away because we had been down that road with my son," said Catherine Grinnan, Hannah's mother.

Fourteen years before Hannah, her mom had another baby also born with the same condition. At the time, the family was told a heart transplant would not be an option. He died two days later. For Hannah, there would be hope.

"To find out that Loma Linda and Dr. Leonard Bailey had pioneered the infant heart transplant, I felt like it was the place. We were getting called there," Catherine said.

Chinnock said back then, transplant patients only had one or two anti-rejection medications available. Now there's more.

"Now I have six or seven different options, and we can modify based on effect and side effects. And that's made a big difference," Chinnock said.

A difference that's helping patients like Hannah live full, active lives. In high school, she was the captain of her cheerleading team. They won a national championship.

"That's a really grueling sport. And I would say to somebody 'Guess who had the heart transplant out of all these girls?' And you wouldn't know that she was any different," Catherine said.

Only half of all donor-eligible deaths lead to organ donations. But without the brave decision of Hannah's donor family, Catherine knows none of this would be possible.

"It really is a story about giving the gift of life and inspiring other people to do that," she said.

Today Hannah is a college graduate living on her own far from home. It's a dream.

"I know that there could be hiccups in the future, and that's perfectly OK," Hannah said. "But you know, you just want it to go as long as you possibly can."