NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa (Reuters) - The Pennsylvania girl who underwent a double lung transplant after a court battle over U.S. organ donation policies waved slowly and mouthed “Hi” to well wishers on Tuesday, her first day home from the hospital.
Dressed from head to toe in pink except for a blue tracheotomy tube in her neck, 11-year-old Sarah Murnaghan was carried by her parents to a chair outside their suburban Philadelphia-area home as neighbors cheered.
“Sarah is looking forward to being a regular kid, to going outside and playing with her friends,” her mother, Janet Murnaghan, told reporters at a press conference outside the Newtown Square home.
“She’d like to be on a soccer team. She used to horseback ride and ice skate, and she’s looking forward to doing those things again,” she said.
Home for the first time in six months following her discharge from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Sarah will undergo rehabilitation four times a week, her father, Fran Murnaghan, said.
“It’s time to build up muscles again, all muscles. The walk from the couch to the bathroom with the walker is a huge challenge,” her father said.
Sarah, looking pale and wearing a ribbon necklace with a medal inscribed, “For Never Giving Up,” was asked by reporters how she felt.
“So-so,” she mouthed as she was surrounded by her parents, sister Ella, 8, and brothers Sean, 7, and Finn, 5, outside their tan wooden home with a sign decorated by children reading, “We love Sarah’s 2 donors.”
She will be home-schooled by her local school district starting September 9, her parents said.
Murnaghan, who has cystic fibrosis, was near death before a court order cleared the way for her to receive donated adult lungs. Her quest for a lung transplant spurred a national debate about organ donation, as U.S. transplant rules place children under 12 behind adolescents and adults on the list for receiving adult lungs, which are distributed by need. Similarly, donated children’s lungs are distributed based on need, but they rarely become available.
Sarah’s parents questioned the policy, first via social media and then in court. The campaign and their case quickly drew national and international attention.
In June, a U.S. District Court judge ordered that Sarah be added to the adult list. The severity of her case led to a match in just days. That transplant failed, and another was completed a few days later.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Leslie Adler