(NEW YORK) — Sarah Murnaghan has developed pneumonia in one of her newly transplanted lungs, according to a family spokeswoman. It likely developed because she breathed in her stomach contents, causing her lungs to become inflamed, Sarah’s mother, Janet Murnaghan, wrote on her Facebook page.
“Yesterday was tough,” Murnaghan wrote on Facebook. “Today she is more stable, but this is definitely a large set back.”
The 10-year-old whose parents successfully fought a rule preventing her from qualifying for adult lungs underwent two lung transplants in June. The first transplant failed almost immediately after surgery June 12. She was then relisted for another adult-lung transplant and received it June 15, even though the donor lungs were infected with pneumonia.
A healthier patient might have turned down the lungs and waited for a better pair, but Sarah was out of options, so they went ahead with the operation.
“They were Sarah’s best and only hope,” the Murnaghans wrote in their June 28 statement. “The second transplant operation was truly a success.”
Sarah underwent diaphragm surgery Tuesday because her diaphragm was partially paralyzed during the two transplants, making it difficult for her to breathe on her own. The diaphragm surgery was another step.
Sarah was dying of cystic fibrosis this time last month. The genetic condition affects cells that produce mucus, sweat and digestive fluid. Patients typically suffer so much lung damage that they often go into respiratory failure, which is why Sarah needed a lung transplant to survive.
About a month ago, Janet Murnaghan started a Change.org petition, calling attention to what would become known as the Under 12 Rule, which said that even though Sarah would be given priority when pediatric lungs became available, adult lungs would have to be offered to adult matches in her region before they could be offered to her.
On June 5, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order to prevent U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from enforcing the rule for Sarah. By June 10, the Organ Transplantation and Procurement Network re-evaluated the Under 12 Rule and decided to keep it but created a mechanism for exceptions, depending on the case.
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