Ten year-old Sarah Murnaghan and 11 year old Javier Accosta have cystic fibrosis. The genetic disorder severely damages the lungs and digestive system. They're waiting for lung transplants along with 1,700 other people in the U.S., including about 30 children under the age of 11. Matches are made based on blood type and size.
"In the case of a child, by getting lungs from an adult, you can take either part of the lung or cut down part of the lung and make it fit into that child," said Dr. Joshua Sonett with New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Medical Center.
The donor system also takes into account how well a patient will do with a new lung. Lung transplants are an especially high risk operation. Infection is a big problem because the lungs are exposed to viruses and bacteria. About half of the patients who have lung transplants are living five years after their procedure.
A big reason for the long waiting list in the U.S. is the number of lungs available. ast year there were just 20 lung donors under the age of 12 and about 1,700 donors for adults.
"There is an organ donor shortage and if we can get enough organs then we would just be deciding who we are going to transplant and when and not discussing who gets which lung," Dr. Sonett said.
Each day about 18 people die waiting for transplants. Sarah and Javier's family are hopeful the odds are now more in their favor.
Marlie Hall - CBS News
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