Sarah Murnaghan, girl who successfully sued for adult lung transplants, goes home

Philadelphia Sarah Murnaghan, the Pa. girl whose family sued to get her an adult lung transplant, left the The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Tuesday.

Sarah was carried into her family's Newtown Square home shortly after she was discharged, where she was met with balloons and a big sign saying "Welcome Home, Sarah!"

Sarah, who turned 11 on Aug. 7, received two sets of lungs this summer as she struggled with the effects of end-stage cystic fibrosis.

Her mother, Janet Murnaghan, said in a Facebook post late Monday that she and her daughter had "cried tears of joy."

"We entered CHOP on Feb. 19, more than six months ago. I never could have imagined the journey that lay in front of us," Murnaghan wrote in the post, thanking God, Sarah's donors and all those who supported the family. She said she plans to speak with reporters Tuesday afternoon.

Her release capped days of upbeat progress reports from the family.

On Sunday, Murnaghan said her daughter was taken off oxygen, although she still gets support from a machine that helps her to breathe, and had started to walk with the aid of a walker, even venturing outside.

Family spokeswoman Tracy Simon said Sarah's recovery is now focused on building her muscle strength so she no longer has to use a breathing tube. She said Sarah recovered from a case of pneumonia that stemmed from the tube.

Sarah underwent her first adult double-lung transplant on June 12, but they failed soon after. She received a second pair of lungs infected with pneumoniathree days later.

Despite the high risk of taking infected lungs, her mother said Sarah was running out of time, so they decided to go forward with the procedure.

Sarah soon developed pneumoniaand had other setbacks, requiring another breathing tube.

But, she improved and by early August, she was no longer being fed through an IV and she left the hospital's intensive care unit.

She received the transplants after her parents went to federal court to challenge national transplant rules that put her at the end of the waiting list for adult lungs.

According to organ donation rules put in place in 2005, adult organ allocation is based on severity of illness for those 12 and up. Since Sarah was under the minimum age, she would only be offered the lungs after every single person with her blood type 12 and older did not want them, even those less sick than her.

A federal judge intervened, forcing the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network -- the private nonprofit group that manages U.S. organ allocation -- to add Sarah to the adult list.

The OPTN also created a committee that will hear appeals for cases like Sarah's.

The caseraised questions among some health specialists and medical ethicists about how organ donation rules are developed and under what circumstances they might be disregarded.

"It would be very difficult that this system has to respond for individual pleas for help," bioethicist Dr. Margaret Moon, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, said to in June. "Every story is compelling. It's always tragic when someone doesn't get an organ -- that can't be a reason to change that approach," she said.

UNOS spokeswoman Anne Paschke said Tuesday that the temporary option for other children to apply for adult lungs will be in effect until the end of June 2014. She said a committee is currently studying whether to make that change permanent, or make other changes to adolescent lung transplant rules.

Paschke said two other children have received adult lung transplants as a result of the temporary rule.