Philly girl who got new lungs in surgery after complications

By Kristen Butler,  |  July 2, 2013 at 9:56 AM
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Sarah Murnaghan, the 10-year-old Philadelphia girl who got adult lungs after her parents sued to change national transplant rules, is having another operation Tuesday, this time to treat a partially paralyzed diaphragm.

The partial paralysis of her diaphragm, a complication from the lung transplant, is preventing her new lungs from inflating properly, thwarting any attempt to remove her from the ventilator. The procedure, performed at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, will flatten the diaphragm muscle.

Sarah's family revealed Friday that this is her second set of lungs, after the first transplant failed within hours of the June 12 procedure. The second transplant, on June 15, was successful, allowing Sarah to take a few breaths on her own for the first time.

"We are hopeful tomorrow's surgery will bring us closer to successful extubation," or removal from the ventilator, Janet Murnaghan, Sarah's mother, posted Monday on Facebook. "Please pray for Sarah's anxiety level. Ever since the unsuccessful extubation, she has struggled with fears that she will suffocate."

Sarah, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, sparked a national conversation about organ donation and transplants after her parents made a high-profile case for their daughter's right to a life-saving procedure, despite being too young to be immediately eligible for adult lungs.

She was added to the adult donor list after a federal judge ordered Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to circumvent existing rules that require potential recipients to be at least 12 years old.

Some have criticized the move, saying the high risk of transplant -- and lungs are especially risky -- and the use of four adult lungs so far, is precisely the reason the age limit exists when viable organs are critically scarce.

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