Oftentimes, it’s the smallest of people who bring about the biggest changes in our world. Sarah Murnaghan, an 11-year-old cystic fibrosis patient, was able to permanently change a U.S. policy on organ donations for children. The policy change not only saved Murnaghan’s life, but will continue to save the lives of future children that may one day find themselves in similar circumstances.
At only 11 years of age, Sarah Murnaghan’s family feared the young girl would not live much longer. She was born with the genetic disease, and for the last three years of her life had been hooked up to a breathing assistance machine, CNN reported. Murnaghan desperately needed a lung transplant, but her age meant she could only be offered an adult organ after it was offered to matching adults. Desperate to save their daughter, the Murnaghans appealed the restrictive policy, and last June a judge allowed for Sarah to be exempt from this rule.
After another year of deliberation, the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN) and United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) announced their decision to extend this policy change to other children, CNN reported. As of Monday, children aged 11 and younger will have the chance to receive additional priority for lung transplants, including lungs from older donors. Prior policy stated that a child must be at least 12 years of age before being able to receive adult donations.
Following the June 2013 ruling, Sarah received a new set of lungs donated by an adult. Unfortunately, the first donations did not work well and shortly afterward the young girl required a second donation. Today, according to Sarah’s family, she is “now breathing on her own after three years of being tethered to machines,” CNN reported. "Sarah is still getting physical rehabilitation and we have work in front of us but we are blessed there has been no rejection," the Murnaghan family added.
Originally, the Murnaghans believed it was too late to save their daughter, who only a year ago was fighting to stay alive. Still, they chose to appeal for a policy change to help “ every family in our situation,” CNN reported. They express nothing but gratitude and appreciation that today they can watch Sarah ride her bike and swim. Sarah’s case is widely recognized as helping the American public become aware of the restrictive policy and starting the year-long effort to change the rule. “We know a lot of kids who are waiting and little people who are waiting. Just knowing that they’ll have greater access is a really amazing feeling,” Janet Murnaghan, Sarah’s mother, told ABC News.
Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening genetic disease that affects an individual’s lungs and digestive system. In the United States, it is estimated that around 30,000 children are afflicted with the condition. It can clog the lungs, which leads to life-threatening lung infections. The condition also makes it harder for the body to absorb nutrients in food.