10-year-old girl's lung transplant has Detroit connection

Published On: Jun 13 2013 05:24:16 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 13 2013 06:18:04 PM EDT

An unknown donor in Detroit became a hero to a family in Philadelphia and highlighted why donating organs is so important


A Pennsylvania family's battle to have their 10-year-old daughter added to the wait list to receive a lung transplant from an adult donor has attracted worldwide attention, and Local 4 has learned there is now a Detroit connection.

Sarah Murnaghan is recovering after receiving a new set of lungs on Wednesday.  The donor lungs were from an adult. 

Local 4 has confirmed the lungs Sarah received were flown to Philadelphia from Detroit.  Local 4 Health Reporter Dr. Frank McGeorge said that means they most likely came from a donor at a local hospital.

Because of rules about confidentiality, Gift of Life of Michigan is unable to confirm any details about this or any organ donation.

Flight records show the plane left Philadelphia just before 7am Wednesday and flew directly to Detroit, landing at City Airport at 8:49am.  Sources tell Local 4 there were three medical staff members on board.

The flight left Detroit with the donated lungs about four and a half hours later, arriving in Philadelphia at 2:39 p.m.

The lungs were then transported to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia by ambulance and transplanted into Sarah in a surgery that lasted six hours.

Sharon Ruddock, Sarah's aunt, said Sarah received the lungs as a direct result of the judge's ruling that allowed her to be put on the adult transplant list.

"They were able to resize the adult lungs without any issue.  It was a perfect fit into Sarah," said Ruddock. 

Ruddock said their family was thinking about the donor family.

"My heart goes out to them and they really are the heroes in this story, to have given lungs to Sarah, and potentially other organs to other people who need them. So we're extremely thankful, extremely thankful to that family," said Ruddock.  "That family has given Sarah a chance of life and a chance of a future which she wouldn't have had."

According to Gift of Life of Michigan's website, as of June 1st, there were 89 people in Michigan on the wait list for a lung transplant.  Lungs are allocated based on several factors, including the condition of the patient.  McGeorge reported because Sarah's situation was so critical, she would have been among those at the top of the adult list.

Dr. Marwan Abouljoud is a transplant surgeon at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.  He said the controversy surrounding Sarah's case dramatically illustrates the need for more organ donors and the lifesaving difference every donor can make.

"The whole reason why issues like this exist is because we do not have enough organs for those who are in need of organs," said Abouljoud.  "Had we had enough organs, none of this would be an issue and even the allocation system would be much much less complicated."

Sarah still faces a long recovery, and doctors said these next few days are critical. 

"It's painful, it's difficult, but Sarah has always said she was not going for easy. She was just going for possible," said Ruddock.

To join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, click here.


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