Girl receives second lung transplant after first fails

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PHILADELPHIA -- A 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl who underwent a double-lung transplant amid a national debate about organ allocation has undergone a second transplant and is now taking some breaths on her own, the girl's parents said yesterday.

Sarah Murnaghan's mother said the first set of lungs failed within hours after the June 12 transplant at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Sarah was placed on machines. She was placed back on the lung transplant list the night after her surgery and received a second set of lungs on June 15.

"We were told . . . that she was going to die," the girl's mother, Janet Murnaghan, said at a news conference yesterday in explaining why the second transplant was not disclosed. "We weren't prepared to live out her dying in public."

Sarah initially received lungs from an adult donor after her parents sued over national rules that place children behind adolescents and adults on the list for adult lungs.

Janet Murnaghan said Sarah's condition began to "spiral out of control" shortly after the first surgery. A second set of lungs, from a donor 12 or older, was found and transplanted though they were infected with pneumonia, making the surgery extra risky.

Sarah's mother said the second transplant was a success. She was placed back on a ventilator due to partial paralysis of her diaphragm, a complication of surgery that is not allowing her lungs to expand, her mother said. She said Sarah is slated for surgery on Monday in an effort to repair her diaphragm.

"Her doctors continue to wean her from her ventilator, her last two chest tubes were removed today," Janet Murnaghan said. "We're not out of the woods, but Sarah's health is trending in the right direction."

The failure of the first transplant is not uncommon. A 2005 University of Pennsylvania study found nearly 12 percent of lung transplants experienced primary graft failure, where the organ almost immediately begins to fail. But the timing -- she received a second set of lungs just three days after her first -- was unusual. -- AP

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