Posted in: Medicine

Sarah Murnaghan: 10-Year-Old Lung Transplant Pioneer Awakes From Coma

Sarah Murnaghan

There’s more good news for everybody pulling for Sarah Murnaghan, the brave 10-year-old girl who had to fight for a life-saving double-lung transplant. On Friday, she awoke from her coma and she can now respond to questions by nodding yes or no.

Within days of receiving the lung transplant on June 12, Sarah Murnaghan’s mother Janet said that she would go quiet in the media so that the family could focus on Sarah’s recovery. Tracy Simon, a family spokeswoman, shared the good news about Sarah’s awakening with the Associated Press and NBC News this morning.

Two days earlier, Sarah had already recovered enough to allow the medical team to remove a special breathing machine and replace it with a simple ventilator.

Both reports said that Sarah is frustrated that she can’t speak yet, but she seemed to be doing well overall.

She has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that formerly killed most patients in childhood. Modern medical techniques like transplants have shifted the average age of death from six months in 1959 to over 37 years in 2008.

As I previously reported, a technicality in the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) rules had prevented Sarah from ranking highly on a waiting list to receive a pair of modified adult lungs, even though she was medically qualified.

If she had been 12, she would have been at the top of the list, based on the urgency of her need. Since she was under age 12, she could not be considered until everyone on the list aged 12 and up had been offered the lungs — even if many of those patients didn’t have urgent conditions.

She had been living at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia since February and was expected to die within weeks, if not days, if she didn’t receive a lung transplant.

Federal Judge Michael Baylston ruled earlier this month that Sarah’s birthdate be changed in the computer records to give her an older birthdate. In that way, she immediately went to the top of the list, putting Sarah Murnaghan in line for the life-saving operation.

[Sarah Murnaghan photo by Janet Ruddock Murnaghan via Facebook]

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