H�l�ne Campbell's double-lung transplant a success
Published Friday, April 6, 2012 5:21PM EDT
If an organ donation is called The Gift of Life, Ottawa's Hélène Campbell and her family got quite the Easter weekend present early Friday morning.
The organ-donor advocate came out of a successful double-lung transplant in Toronto at 12:15 p.m. Friday, a timing that's especially fortunate since her lung condition was worsening this week.
Family and friends are running a live blog on her website where they posted a message of thanks Friday afternoon.
"Thank you everyone for your kind thoughts, best wishes, support, and prayers for Hélène," they wrote. "Please feel free to continue sending comments to the live blog and Facebook, plus sending tweets ... every message helps keep us strong."
Her family also asked for privacy during her recovery. She'll be in a medically-induced coma for a few days hospitalized for at least a month as her body starts to adjust to its new lungs.
"She's got many hurdles in the next few days," said Dr. Tom Waddell, who helped with the surgery.
Waddell said there's still a risk her body could reject its new organ or she could develop an infection.
A post on her website said her lung capacity had diminished to 20 per cent earlier this week and was starting to affect her heart.
Campbell's campaign reached Bieber, DeGeneres, Cherry via Twitter
Campbell rose to fame during her fight with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that causes scarring on the lungs.
The 20-year-old ran successful social media campaigns using the hashtag #BeAnOrganDonor to get the attention of Justin Bieber, Ellen DeGeneres and Don Cherry, raising awareness for organ donation at the same time.
She was honoured by the province's Lieutenant-Governor last week.
"She's turned a tremendously stressful situation and turned it into something beautiful and powerful," said her father Allen Campbell at a news conference.
She appeared over Skype on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in February, when the host promised to have her back once she got her new lungs.
Ellen's Twitter account tweeted a message of support Friday afternoon, saying "I'm so happy my friend Helene Campbell @alungstory was finally able to get her lungs. I'm sending lots of love and healing thoughts."
Impact is being felt
Ontario's organ donor registry said the number of people signing up to be donors has noticeably increased since the start of her campaign, which she said was for everyone needing organs and not only her.
Thirty-three people have received lungs in the province this year, with another 66 people on the waiting list.
Nancy Neville, who had the same condition as Hélène, underwent successful transplant surgery four years ago.
"My lungs were from a 12-year-old boy," she said. "At first I was sad but there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of that little boy, that he's growing within me."
Neville said she's been closely following Hélène's efforts.
"Oh my gosh I'm so pleased for her," she said. "She's been given the gift of life, it's truly a miracle."
Hélène's old high school teacher is getting involved, organizing a fundraiser for April 22 at the Greenfields Pub called "Bands for Breath."
"Anything we can do to draw attention to the need," he said of the eight-band show starting at 2 p.m., which will raise money for organ donation and the Campbell family.
Her home community of Barrhaven is also holding a pancake breakfast April 21 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Larkin House.
"If we can get more organ donors we can improve the odds for our neighbours like Hélène who are facing this issue and who need a transplant," said James Gilliland of the West Barrhaven Community Association.
Both fundraisers are helping the Campbell family pay for the costs of living in Toronto for the past few months.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Joanne Schnurr and files from The Canadian Press