Sarah Murnaghan, a 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl with cystic fibrosis whose family fought to have her prioritized for adult organs, is getting a new set of lungs, her family told CNN on Wednesday.
Sarah was in surgery Wednesday morning.
“God is great! He moved the mountain! Sarah got THE CALL,” a statement on her Facebook page said. “Please pray for Sarah’s donor, her HERO, who has given her the gift of life.”
The parents’ push for an organ transplant policy change has thrust the issue of who gets donated organs into the national spotlight.
Sarah has been in and out of hospitals her entire life, but her condition worsened this year. Her lungs had been deteriorating rapidly over the last few months — much faster than anyone in her family expected. In May, doctors told her mother, Janet Murnaghan, that Sarah had less than five weeks to live.
“We knew at some point, she would need new lungs,” her father, Fran Murnaghan, said in May. “We had hoped it would be much further down the road, but the disease has progressed.”
At that time, Sarah had been on the waiting list for new lungs for 18 months.
The Murnaghans were under the impression that the transplant would happen any day, since she was the first candidate on the priority list for children in her region.
But children’s organs rarely become available. In 2012, there were just 10 transplants in Sarah’s age group, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Comparatively, there were more than 1,700 adult transplants in the same year. Only people 12 years and older qualified for the adult lungs.
Last week, the Murnaghans contacted a lawyer, who petitioned Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to change the rules that keep children under 12 from being prioritized for donated lungs. They argued the rule was making it all but impossible for Sarah to receive a lung; every adult on the list would have to turn down the lung to let the little girl have it.
“The Under 12 Rule is unfair, arbitrary and capricious, inconsistent with the statute and regulations, and stands in the way of Sarah potentially receiving a set of lungs that she needs to live,” wrote Stephen G. Harvey, the family’s lawyer.
On June 5, the family asked a federal judge to issue a restraining order to block Sebelius from having the agency that oversees transplants apply the policy. The judge granted the injunction and ordered Sebelius to direct the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network to waive the rule in Sarah’s case.
A letter from Sebelius was sent to the organ network the following day directing them to comply with the judge’s order.
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