Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

One year later, the effect of Sarah Murnaghan's win

Sarah Murnaghan working in April with exercise physiologist Mike McBride at Children´s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Sarah Murnaghan working in April with exercise physiologist Mike McBride at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Courtesy of Janet Murnaghan

A year ago Thursday, a dying 10-year-old from Newtown Square received the first of two sets of adult lungs after her parents convinced a judge that organ allocation rules were arbitrary.

The exception was temporarily expanded nationwide and may be made permanent this month.

The old rules meant that children under 12 could not be considered for adult lungs ahead of wait-listed adults in the same geographic region, no matter how dire their condition.

Since fewer pediatric lungs were available, a smaller percentage of children received transplants than adults:

Percentage receiving transplant from wait list
Between Sept. 12, 2010, and March 11, 2013: 

Age 0-5 6-11 12-17 18+
  48% 35% 57% 63%

But the overall impact is small because the number of children under 12 needing lungs is much less than that of adults:

Number on waiting list
As of May 30:

Age 0-5 6-11 12-17 18+
  9 14 27 1,601

The upshot: In the year since the case made headlines, 12 children under 12 were granted exceptions for adult lungs. Of those, five received lungs from pediatric donors, as they would have before, and one got adolescent lungs. Three died, one was too ill to receive a transplant, and one was removed from the list for other reasons.

Just one - Sarah Murnaghan, who is now 11 and doing well - received adult lungs, cut down to fit.

Sarah's lungs and muscles have strengthened enough that last week, she stopped using a small electric ventilator. "She is off it 24/7! We are so thankful," her mother, Janet, exulted on Facebook. If medical test results look good, the artificial airway tube in Sarah's throat will be removed. - Don Sapatkin

SOURCE: Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network

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