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Grandparents Take Custody of Baby Jesse

June 07, 1986|HARRY NELSON | Times Medical Writer

The unwed parents of a dying infant in need of a heart transplant temporarily transferred guardianship of their 12-day-old son on Friday to his paternal grandparents as a condition for Baby Jesse's acceptance into Loma Linda University Medical Center's heart transplant program.

The medical center said a wide search for a donor has begun.

Earlier this week, a 20-member transplant committee at Loma Linda rejected the baby as a potential heart recipient because the group reportedly felt that his parents might be incapable of providing special postoperative care.

Under the unusual legal agreement, approved by Superior Court Judge Robert Olson in Pasadena, the right to determine when the guardianship can be terminated will be up to Loma Linda officials, at least during the postoperative recovery period, according to Terry Scolinos, an attorney representing the infant's grandparents.

Have 'No Animosity'

He said that his clients have "no animosity" toward the Loma Linda hospital over its earlier decision not to accept the baby in the transplant program. "It was a medical decision" based on their concern for the need for adequate postoperative care, Scolinos said.

The infant's parents held a news conference at Pasadena's St. Philip's Catholic Church after executing the transfer of guardianship.

"I feel more than happy now," said Denna Binkley, the infant's 17-year-old mother.

"I was devastated to find out that he had a heart condition," she added. "I cried a lot. First we had hope. And then we were turned down. I was angry and hurt and felt 'What can I do?' T1751478885prayed a lot."

The baby's father, Jesse Sepulveda Sr., 26, expressed confidence that a donor heart will be found in time. He is an employee of an air-conditioning and heating company.

"We are still prepared to do anything to save Jesse's life," Sepulveda said.

Baby Jesse suffers from hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition that usually is fatal early in life. Since last November, surgeons at Loma Linda have done human heart transplants on four youngsters with the syndrome. All are reported to be well and are living at home.

Such success, however, depends first on finding a suitable donor heart. At least one infant at Loma Linda died recently while awaiting a heart transplant.

Life Judged Limited

When Baby Jesse was born, physicians had given him three hours to two weeks to live, Sepulveda said. "His condition is great. He is being well taken care of," Binkley added. Earlier in the week the baby underwent an operation that temporarily improves his heart function.

Scolinos said the transfer of guardianship was requested by Loma Linda officials as a condition of their accepting the infant as a transplant candidate. The agreement is effective through July 11, at which time it could be extended, according to Scolinos.

Sepulveda said that he and the baby's mother have never talked directly to the Loma Linda transplant committee. "They referred all the information to us through the baby's doctor," he said. He did not identify the doctor.

Remains in Hospital

Baby Jesse was born May 25 at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, where he is expected to remain until a donor is found.

Asked whether his parents will take good care of his child, Sepulveda replied, "They will be magnificent. My dad and mom will be wonderful."

The young couple's plight was brought to public attention by the Rev. Michael Carcerano of St. Philip's Catholic Church and Susan Carpenter McMillan, spokeswoman for the Right to Life League of Southern California. McMillan's husband, Bill, is the attorney for the young parents.

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