Sarah Murnaghan, with new lungs, now responsive

Sarah Murnaghan wears a mask at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Her case led to an appeal and review system for prioritizing organ transplant lists. (family photo)
Sarah Murnaghan wears a mask at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Her case led to an appeal and review system for prioritizing organ transplant lists. (family photo)
Posted: June 24, 2013

Sarah Murnaghan, the 10-year-old Delaware County girl who underwent a double-lung transplant after a national debate over the waiting-list process, has awakened from a medically induced coma and is communicating by nodding, her family said Saturday.

Sarah's aunt, Sharon Ruddock, said the girl stays awake for brief periods and responds to questions by nodding to indicate yes or no.

"She's still intubated and awake off and on," Ruddock said. "She's doing well, and we're excited."

Sarah, from Newtown Square, suffers from severe cystic fibrosis, and lung transplants are often necessary as the disease advances. She has been in and out of hospitals for much of her life, but recently her condition worsened dramatically.

Children's organs rarely become available for transplants, but Sarah received new lungs on June 12 after a judge intervened to allow her to receive them from an adult donor.

Sarah's parents, Francis and Janet, waged a campaign to change the so-called Under 12 rule, which requires that adult donor lungs be offered to waiting-list patients age 12 and older before being offered to children such as Sarah.

The family argued in federal court in Philadelphia that the policy constitutes age discrimination, and on June 5 U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson issued a 10-day restraining order that temporarily placed Sarah on the adult waiting list based on her medical urgency.

Ruddock said that because Sarah was on a ventilator, she cannot speak. But she had responded to questions, such as whether she was in pain, by nodding her head, her aunt said.

"It's not that she's awake an hour at a time," said Ruddock, stressing that the road to recovery will be long. "We keep reminding her that she's got new lungs."


Contact Mark Fazlollah

at 215-854-5831 or mfazlollah@phillynews.com.

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