Sarah Murnaghan: 10-Year-Old Receives Adult Lung Transplant Weeks Before Expected Death

Sarah Murnaghan will be able to celebrate her eleventh birthday — and many more birthdays in the future — after finally receiving a lung transplant on Wednesday afternoon. Her family had been waiting for a year and a half for the call.  

Born with cystic fibrosis, Sarah’s genetic disorder developed faster than it does in most other patients. At just 10-years old, she would not be able to live without a new pair of lungs.

An article in the Huffungton Post reports that Sarah was extremely lucky to have received new lungs and a chance at surviving, but she was "very close to the end. Maybe a week. Maybe two," said her mother, Janet Ruddock Murnaghan. Without a spot on the adult waiting list, Sarah would not have made it."

Stringent organ donor laws proves the biggest obstacle for the Murnaghan family.  According to an NPR article, the current system says that children cannot be eligible for adult organs, but child donor lungs are much more difficult to come by.

After a relentless fight waged by her family to save their daughter’s life, Sarah will live. On June 5, U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson ruled that Murnaghan should be placed on the list of organs from adult donors, recorded the Huffington Post. "It was a direct result of the ruling that allowed her to be put on the adult list," her mother said. According to her family, once on the adult donor list, Sarah gained quick access to a new pair of lungs "through normal channels."

The nation followed the news anxiously, waiting for the outcome. Finally on Wednesday, Sarah’s mother posted on her Facebook page that "God is great! He moved the mountain! Sarah got THE CALL."

According to an article in the Huffington Post, Sarah went into surgery around 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning and underwent a procedure that lasted around six hours. The Murnaghan family wrote in a statement that "Her doctors are very pleased with both her progress during the procedure and her prognosis for recovery."

"Please pray for Sarah's donor, her HERO, who has given her the gift of life," Janet Murnaghan asked friends on her Facebook page.

Along with her parents, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania was a crucial figure in Sarah’s fight. He and Sarah’s family were painfully aware that the current system was flawed and fought to change it. "There is a system here that is letting children die. The system needs to be fairer," said Janet Murnaghan on All Things Considered. Rather than distribute organs according to age, she argued that they should be given based on doctor’s recommendations.

A life is a life, and our organ donor system should prioritize saving lives based on urgency, not on arbitrary factors such as age or income. 

If ranked according to the urgency of the condition, Sarah would have been placed at the top of any organ waiting list. In conjunction with the fact that her situation was dire, Sarah’s young age and the long life ahead of her should have only motivated doctors to move her name to the top of the waiting list, but as is the case with organ donor laws, her age was hampering her access to the medical care she urgently needed.