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Pennsylvania girl who got on adult donor list gets lung transplant

June 12, 2013|By Michael Muskal

The critically ill 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl who was at the center of efforts to allow children younger than 12 to receive adult lungs was in surgery undergoing a transplant on Wednesday.

Sarah Murnaghan, who suffers from severe cystic fibrosis, was receiving a new set of lungs at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. A hospital spokeswoman, Dana Mortensen, said by telephone that she was barred from discussing issues involving the patient because of privacy concerns.

But the family confirmed that the surgery was underway in a posting on the Facebook page of Sarah’s mother, Janet Ruddock Murnaghan. She also thanked the donor of the lungs.

“God is great! He moved the mountain! Sarah got THE CALL,” Janet Murnaghan wrote.

“Please pray for Sarah's donor, her HERO, who has given her the gift of life. Today their family has experienced a tremendous loss, may God grant them a peace that surpasses understanding. Please pray for Sarah and her surgical team and our whole family! We are overwhelmed with emotions!!!! Thank you to all of you for the unending support. Xoxoxo!! God bless! Today is the start of Sarah's new beginning and new life!”

The surgery, which takes hours, began around lunchtime in Philadelphia. It was unknown whether Sarah was receiving a set of lungs from an adult or from another child, the legal issue that set her case set off.

Because she was younger than 12, Sarah Murnaghan had been solely on the transplant list for pediatric lungs. The Murnaghan family, of suburban Philadelphia, appealed to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to order that the youngster be allowed to receive adult lungs, but Sebelius said she couldn’t bypass the existing protocols.

The family then sued in federal court in Philadelphia. U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson ruled in the family’s favor last week, issuing a temporary restraining order that suspended the age limit in the nation's transplant rules for 10 days for Sarah. The temporary restraining order also covered Javier Acosta, 11, who was waiting for a lung transplant.

Both children were listed on the adult and pediatric transplant lists. Javier Acosta’s situation remains the same, according to a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP, which represents both families.

“I just received word that a donated set of lungs has come through for Sarah and that she is headed to surgery now.  I cannot comment on any legal aspects of the case, but I will say that I am very happy right now and I hope that the surgery is successful,”  attorney Steve Harvey said in a statement emailed to reporters. 

The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network says 31 children under the age of 11 are on the waiting list for a lung transplant. About 1,700 adults are awaiting lungs.

Sarah Murnaghan’s surgery comes two days before Judge Baylson had scheduled a hearing on whether to make his temporary order  permanent.


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