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Boulder Lung Transplant Recipient Says 10-Year-Old Deserves Chance At Life

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4)- A man who is alive thanks to a lung transplant believes a child who desperately needs a lung transplant but isn't eligible, deserves a chance at life.

The U.S. health secretary said she won't intervene in an "incredibly agonizing" transplant decision about a dying Pennsylvania girl.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a congressional panel Tuesday that medical experts should make those decisions.

However, relatives of 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan said Sebelius' remarks confused them because they want a policy change for all pre-adolescent children awaiting lung transplants, not just Sarah.

Gavin Maitland from Boulder nearly died before having a lung transplant five years ago.

"I could barely breathe. I could barely walk. I was on oxygen 24 hours a day," said Maitland.

Since then he's run a half marathon and recently completed a mile and a half swim from Alcatraz. He said Murnaghan deserves a chance.

"She could be the next Nobel Prize winner. She could do tremendous things in her lifetime," said Maitland.

The Newtown Square girl has been hospitalized at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for three months with end-stage cystic fibrosis and is on a ventilator. Her family wants children younger than 12 to be eligible for adult lungs because so few pediatric lungs are available.

Under current policy, only patients 12 or over can join the list. But Sarah's transplant doctors say she is medically eligible for an adult lung.

Maitland said government bureaucracy and her age shouldn't be an issue.

"They should take it on a case by case basis. If they think this girl has got a shot at living and I know many patients with cystic fibrosis who do extremely well after a transplant, I think they should give her a chance," said Maitland.

I would love if they would give this girl a chance."

The Organ Procurement and Transplant Network issued this statement defending the current law, "The biological needs of candidates younger than 12 are different from adolescent and adult candidates... We cannot create a policy exemption since giving an advantage to one patient may unduly disadvantage others."

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