PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A 10-year-old girl with cystic fibrosis was recovering from a transplant of adult lungs after a judge's ruling expanded her options for lifesaving surgery.
Sarah Murnaghan underwent a six-hour surgery Wednesday at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, a procedure her aunt said resulted because of the larger list of available organs.
"It was a direct result of the ruling that allowed her to be put on the adult list," Sharon Ruddock said after her niece's surgery was completed successfully. "It was not pediatric lungs. She would have never gotten these lungs otherwise."
She said the donor lungs came through "normal channels" and not through the public appeals the family made in its bid to find a compatible donor. No other details about the donor lungs are known.
The Murnaghan family's quest to qualify their daughter for an organ transplant spurred public debate over how donor organs are allocated.
Her family and the family of another cystic fibrosis patient at the same hospital challenged a lung transplant policy that creates a separate waiting list for children under 12. The national transplant network says the under-12 policy was intended to increase access by giving children priority to donors of similar age and size but that children could also be offered donor adult lungs after teens and adults on the waiting list had been considered.
The families argued that pediatric lungs are rarely donated and asked for their children to be put on the adult waiting list, too.
Sarah's health was fading when U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson in Philadelphia ruled June 5 that Sarah and 11-year-old Javier Acosta of New York City should be eligible for adult lungs.
Critics warned there could be a downside to having judges intervene in the organ transplant system's allocation policy. Lung transplants are difficult procedures and some say child patients tend to have more trouble with them than adults. Complications from transplants can include rejection of the new lung and infection.
Ruddock said the family was optimistic about Sarah's recovery.
"If everything goes perfectly, she could be out in a couple of weeks, running down the hall," Ruddock said. "It could take a couple of months, it could take three weeks."
The Murnaghan family noted that Sarah's successful surgery was the result of another family's loss:
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