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Sign your donor card

Recipient spreads Give2Live message

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Lung-transplant recipient Hélène Campbell laughs while working out at Portage and Main during the Give2Live Coffee Break Boot Camp workout session Thursday.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Lung-transplant recipient Hélène Campbell laughs while working out at Portage and Main during the Give2Live Coffee Break Boot Camp workout session Thursday. Photo Store

Hélène Campbell has two good reasons to cross the country and raise organ transplant awareness -- her lungs.

Both of Campbell's lungs were replaced by the upper lobes of somebody else's lungs last year after she was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Without them, and without the generosity of someone signing an organ donor card, she wouldn't be alive today, Campbell said Thursday.

"I'm very, very grateful to the donor," Campbell, 22, said.

"I wouldn't be here. They said the night of my transplant (April 6, 2012) if I didn't get them then I'm off the (transplant) list."

'Before my transplant, I couldn't breathe. I breathed out words' -- lung-transplant recipient Hélène Campbell

Campbell, who is from Ottawa, said because the donor's entire lungs wouldn't fit inside her, she assumes they were from a man, but that's all she knows about the donor.

"Before my transplant, I couldn't breathe. I breathed out words. Breathing was really hard. My lung capacity was six per cent and I'm at 96 per cent now."

Campbell, who after her operation started the social-media campaign #BeAnOrganDonor on Twitter, which took off dramatically after singer Justin Bieber noticed and retweeted it, and then was interviewed by Ellen DeGeneres, is travelling across the country by train to raise awareness for both her online campaign Give2Live and for organ-transplant awareness.

Give2Live helps families in four cities across the country awaiting transplants, including Winnipeg, to pay living expenses while waiting for their operation.

Jillian Barrott, of Transplant Manitoba, said her organization is also using Campbell's stop here in Winnipeg to encourage Manitobans to go to www.signupforlife.ca to electronically give permission for doctors to harvest their organs.

Barrott said 10,000 Manitobans have already signed up, but they want more.

"It's still less than one per cent of the population of the province," she said.

"It's less than the crowd at a Jets game for one night."

Barrott said the information will let the person's doctor, Transplant Manitoba, the Tissue Bank of Manitoba and the Misericordia Eye Bank of Manitoba know they have given permission to be a donor. She said the doctors will then let families know when the time comes about their loved one's wishes.

Last year in Manitoba there were three lung transplants, 50 kidney transplants, both living and deceased, and four Manitobans taken out of province for a heart transplant.

Transplant Manitoba says one person dies waiting for a transplant every 36 hours because there aren't enough donors to meet the need.

Health Minister Erin Selby said Campbell "is an inspiration not only in Winnipeg, but right across North America."

"Make sure you talk to your loved ones about your organ wishes," Selby added.

"Don't forget to talk to your friends and family and let them know. You can save a life and there's an example right there -- a bouncing, vibrant young person is here because someone signed an organ card."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 8, 2013 A12

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