Bronx boy who challenged child lung transplant rules receives organs

Javier Acosta

Javier Acosta, the second child to challenge lung transplant rules that required children under 12 to be placed on a separate pediatric waiting list regardless of if they were more sick than those on the adult list, has recovered from an adult lung transplant, according to his family.

Javier, who was 12 at the time of the procedure, received adult lungs from a donor on Oct. 13 at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). The boy had previously been diagnosed with end-stage cystic fibrosis. 

 “I waited to share this news until after he recovered from surgery,” his mother Milagros Martinez said in a statement emailed to CBS News. “Although his prognosis is good, Javier is still in the hospital adjusting to his new lungs.  We are deeply grateful to the donor, the donor family, and the wonderful doctors and staff at CHOP.  We offer our sincere thanks to those who helped us and supported us and prayed for us. Happy New Year!"

The process of receiving lung transplants for children under the age of 12 can be challenging. Federal laws state that these kids are only eligible for lungs donated by a pediatric donor. However, child lungs are a scarce resource. Of the more than 1,700 lungs available for transplant last year, only 20 came from children aged 11 and younger, the CBS Evening News reported previously.

Experts also debate whether or not children should be eligible for adult lungs because as it stands, lung transplants only have a 50 percent five-year success rate in adult patients. For children, the rate hasn’t been determined because it hasn’t been a well-studied topic. People who have cystic fibrosis are also at increased risk of other chronic infections, lowering the chance the lungs will be able to work.

Sarah Murnaghan, another end-state cystic fibrosis patient, was the first to challenge the organ transplant laws earlier this year, filing a lawsuit after Health and Human Services refused to intervene and change the transplant rules. A judge sided with her and she was added to the adult list, and allowed to receive two adult double lung transplants after her first one failed. She was 10 at the time of her procedures.

Javier's family also challenged the laws in June 2013 in a Philadelphia court when the child at the time was 11 years old. Javier’s brother, who also had cystic fibrois, died while waiting for a lung transplant.

 Given he was 12, Javier received adult lungs, according to a family spokesperson.

Murnaghan’s mother said she was thrilled that Javier was also able to receive a lung transplant.

“We are overjoyed for them,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “Sarah and Javier have enjoyed seeing each other a few times since his transplant. Sarah and I cried tears of joy and praised God when we heard.... I will always remember the moment. We are so excited to share the news with you all!!!! Javier is a fighter and just like Sarah it's a long road when you have been so critically I'll for so long but they will come out champions!!!”

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