TODAY   |  June 13, 2013

Girl, 10, has ‘flawless’ lung transplant surgery

Sarah Murnaghan, 10, whose parents fought for her spot on the adult transplant list as her lungs failed from cystic fibrosis, underwent the transplant Wednesday. The surgical team reported the procedure was “perfectly executed.” NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

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>>> for a life saving lung transplant who became the center of a national debate is recovering this morning after a successful surgery. stephanie gosk is live in philadelphia . stephanie , good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. there's good news here at the children's hospital of philadelphia. the surgery was a success, and it happened just in time. it was a long, tense night at children's hospital where sarah murnaghan is recovering from a life-saving double lung transplant . the 10-year-old had been unconscious since saturday. without the surgery to repair her damaged lungs from cystic fibrosis , her family didn't expect the fourth drgrader to survive another week. after six hours, good news.

>> wow, what a night. the surgery was very, very successful. it was flawless. it was perfectly executed.

>> reporter: the surgical team had to resize the adult donor lungs to fit sarah , lungs she never would have gotten without a court order . the murnaghans filed a lawsuit in federal court to get their daughter on a donor list of patients 12 years old or older, and they won. a week later, an adult donor was found.

>> we waited 18 months for pediatric lungs. we would not have gotten an offer that would have saved her life without being able to get adult lungs.

>> reporter: national transplant rules create two lists, one for children under 12 and one for everyone over. adult lung transplants can be risky in small children, but children donors are rare. the rules are established by a group of doctors and medical ethicists to manage a limited supply. some worry desperate families waiting for transplants may now turn to the courts.

>> we now have a new avenue, and it's a scary one, allowing judges to make decisions about who lives and who dies, rather than a system that strives to be as fair and transparent as possible.

>> reporter: the murnaghan family believes the system is broken and that sarah was nearly a victim of it.

>> everyone is so relieved and so happy. we can't believe it. we've fought for this for so long, it's hard to believe it finally happened.

>> reporter: the murnaghans thank the family of the donor who had to suffer a loss for sarah to get these lungs. health experts say this case and many others like it highlight the real problem in this country, which is a lack of organ donors . matt?

>> stephanie gosk in philadelphia. stephanie , thank you very much.