A 10-year-old dying of cystic fibrosis whose parents petitioned for her ability to receive an adult lung transplant, spurring debate over organ transplant regulations, is in surgery Wednesday after a match was found.
Sarah Murnaghan is receiving the transplant at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she has been hospitalized for months, a family spokeswoman said.
Her health was deteriorating when a federal judge intervened last week, giving her a chance at the much larger list of organs from adult donors.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the girl was getting an adult lung (she could be getting a pediatric lung). A hospital spokeswoman, Dana Mortensen, said she had no information to release and would not confirm if Murnaghan was getting a transplant.
Murnaghan’s mother, Janet, said in a Facebook post that the family was “overwhelmed with emotions” and thanked all her supporters.
“Today is the start of Sarah’s new beginning and new life!” she wrote, adding that the donor’s family “has experienced a tremendous loss, may God grant them a peace that surpasses understanding.”
Sarah was initially not placed on the list for adult lung transplant because of regulations that set the age requirement for eligibility at 12 years old. At 10, she instead remained for a period of time on the pediatric list, which sees fewer organs for transplant than the adult list.
The family’s story received national attention and federal Judge Michael Baylson in Philadelphia ruled that Murnaghan, who is from Newtown Square, could be put on the adult list. Following this decision, a mother of another boy with cystic fibrosis, petitioned that her son too be eligible for adult lungs, for which Baylson ruled in agreement.
These allowances have sparked debate regarding the regulations and who makes decisions about transplant eligibility.
Critics warn there could be a downside to having judges intervene in the organ transplant system’s established procedures. Lung transplants are difficult procedures and some say child patients tend to have more trouble with them than adults.
The executive committee of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network held an emergency teleconference Monday evening and resisted making rule changes for children under 12 seeking lung transplants, but it created a special appeal and review system to hear such cases.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.