Lung transplant is success for girl

Court ruling hastens double-lung surgery

PHILADELPHIA – A 10-year-old girl whose efforts to qualify for an organ donation spurred public debate on how organs are allocated underwent a successful double-lung transplant on Wednesday, the girl’s family said.

Sarah Murnaghan, who suffers from severe cystic fibrosis, received new lungs from an adult donor at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, spokeswoman Tracy Simon said.

The Murnaghan family said it was “thrilled” to share the news that Sarah was out of surgery.

“Her doctors are very pleased with both her progress during the procedure and her prognosis for recovery,” the family said in a statement.

During double-lung transplants, surgeons must open up the patient’s chest. Complications can include rejection of the new lungs and infection.

Sarah went into surgery around 11 a.m. Wednesday, and the procedure lasted about six hours, her family said.

“The surgeons had no challenges resizing and transplanting the donor lungs – the surgery went smoothly, and Sarah did extremely well,” it said. “She is in the process of getting settled in the ICU and now her recovery begins. We expect it will be a long road, but we’re not going for easy, we’re going for possible.”

Sarah’s family and the family of another cystic fibrosis patient at the same hospital challenged transplant policy that made children under 12 wait for pediatric lungs to become available or be offered lungs donated by adults only after adolescents and adults on the waiting list had been considered. They said pediatric lungs are rarely donated.

Sarah’s aunt, Sharon Ruddock, said the donor lungs came in through normal channels as a result of being on the adult donor list.

“It was a direct result of the ruling that allowed her to be put on the adult list,” Ruddock said. “It was not pediatric lungs, she would have never gotten these lungs otherwise.” Before the ruling, Ruddock said, Sarah was “very close to the end. Maybe a week. Maybe two.”

No other details about the donor lungs are known.

Sarah’s health was deteriorating when a judge intervened in her case last week, giving her a chance at the much larger list of organs from adult donors. U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson ruled June 5 that Sarah and 11-year-old Javier Acosta, of New York City, should be eligible for adult lungs.

Critics warned there could be a downside to having judges intervene in the organ transplant system’s established procedures. Lung transplants are difficult procedures, and some experts say child patients tend to have more trouble with them than adults do.

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