Murnaghan Family Takes on Facebook Critics After Lung Transplant

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The administrator said no one on the discussion page has ever written that they wanted anything bad to happen to Sarah, contrary to Janet Murnaghan’s accusation.

“The Facebook page provides helpful links on a variety of topics relating to lung transplant: what to expect before, during and after transplant as well as shared personal stories and discussion on current event topics,” the administrator said.

For example, “Discussing Lung Transplantation and Sarah Murnaghan” has talked about Angelique Boston, a 12-year-old in Reading, Penn., who needs a double lung transplant and a bone marrow transplant because of a rare immunodeficiency disease. Angelique is over 12, so wouldn’t be affected by the series of rules that Murnaghan called discriminatory, but she is small for her age, weighing only 53 pounds.

“Our problem is the opposite" of Sarah’s, Angelique’s mother, Sara Boston, told ABCNews.com. “She’s too small for adult lungs. She should be able to have access to pediatric lungs if pediatric cases can have access to adult lungs. If it works that way for kids like Sarah, then it should work that way for my daughter. It needs to be fair.”

Kurland, Angelique’s doctor, asked the OPTN to allow her to be considered for pediatric lungs, but said the request was denied. When asked whether he thought the only way to change the rules was to sue, he said he didn’t know.

Still, Sara Boston said she wasn’t against Sarah Murnaghan getting her lung transplants. In fact, Angel and Sarah Murnaghan are friends who chat on Skype.

“I am concerned that she’s going to have to compete with a 10-year-old because she’s small herself,” Boston said.

Crossing the Line

But what bothered Janet Murnaghan most, she said, was seeing the posts on the “Discussing Lung Transplantation and Sarah Murnaghan” Facebook page criticizing her for allowing Sarah to go to an event without a face mask to protect her from illnesses.

Like any other organ transplant patient, Sarah was put on drugs to suppress her immune system to prevent her body from rejecting the new lungs, leaving her extra vulnerable to viruses and bacteria.

During the first six months after Sarah’s two double lung transplants, Janet Murnaghan barely let Sarah leave the house, let alone take off her mask, she said. But soon Sarah’s doses of immune-suppressing drugs decreased, so she no longer needed to wear a mask.

Still, when it came time for Sarah to receive an award at a ceremony in Philadelphia in mid-February, Janet Murnaghan said her doctors had to convince her Sarah didn’t need the mask.

“They had to encourage me not to overprotect her,” Janet Murnaghan said. The Facebook group’s criticism of her care that night "was really upsetting. My initial response when they attacked Sarah and when they attacked my care of Sarah was to be upset.”

The Facebook Attack

So Janet Murnaghan posted to her Facebook page on Feb. 21 to ask her thousands of followers to report the group to Facebook for harassment and have it taken down. At least 235 people responded to let her know they did it, she said.

Messages flooded the page administrator’s inbox. Some messages were screamed in capital letters and included four-letter words, while others called the administrator “sick” and a “bully.” People told the administrator that the Murnaghans would sue.

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