Sarah Murnaghan Develops Pneumonia in New Lungs

After two lung transplants, diaphragm surgery, fragile 10-year-old has new battle

Young double lung transplant recipient Sarah Murnaghan, who sparked a national debate over children's access to adult organ donations, has developed pneumonia in one of her new organs.

In a Facebook post Monday, Sarah’s mother Janet Murnaghan said the 10-year-old developed the condition in her right lung. She said doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia believe it has been caused by aspirations – or drawing of foreign matter into the respiratory system – from the girl’s belly.

“Yesterday was tough. Today she is more stable, but this is definitely a large set back,” Janet Murnaghan said.

Sarah, who has a severe case of cystic fibrosis, underwent a surgery at CHOP on July 2 to repair a partially paralyzed diaphragm, which was causing breathing troubles. The diaphragm was injured during the girl’s second adult-lung transplant on June 15.

The new lungs were transplanted three days after a first set of adult lungs failed on June 12. The mother said the first set of lungs were not rejected by the girl’s body, rather “marginal” and had to be removed shortly after the procedure.

The second set of lungs, were also infected with pneumonia, but Janet Murnaghan had said doctors cut out the infected portion of the organ before transplantation.

Sarah had so much swelling following the second surgery that doctors were forced to keep her chest open for a week until the swelling subsided.

The girl’s case caused a national debate over children’s access to adult organ donation.

The Murnaghan family spent months petitioning physicians and lawmakers to allow the 10-year-old to be moved onto the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network's adult organ donor list, as she laid dying in a hospital room at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Since she was under 12-years-old, Sarah was subjected to a different set of donor rules. Those under 12 who are in need of a lung transplant, must wait until those over 12-years-of-age pass on the lungs no matter how severe a child's condition may be.

The Murnaghans challenged the policy in court and on June 5, a judge put a temporary restraining order in place -- allowing Sarah to be placed on the adult donor list.

The latest transplant is not a cure for her cystic fibrosis, according to doctors. Although, the transplant will extend her life by several years.

Janet Murnaghan said she is “thankful to God” and the girl’s medical team.

“We have an amazing team of doctors who go above and beyond but also walk this road with us in such a kind and compassionate way,” she said.

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