Canada's best-known advocate for organ transplantation demonstrated just how far she has come since a double-lung transplant less than two months ago by getting members of a respected surgical team to dance with her on national television.
Ottawa resident Hélène Campbell was diagnosed with advanced idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis last October and had surgery at Toronto General Hospital on April 6.
'I'm so thankful to my donor and their family for — in such a critical time when they're mourning the loss of their loved one — they're able to consider someone else.' —Hélène Campbell, double-lung recipient
On Thursday, two weeks after being discharged, she showed off her dance moves at a midday news conference and managed to talk her health-care team and her parents into joining her, with the 30-second dance broadcast live across Canada by CBC News Network.
Calling her dance a "movement," she said eventually she hopes to make a commercial showing people from across Canada who have signed up to be organ donors doing the dance.
Plans return to school
Looking happy and healthy, she said she plans to return to school in the near future, but will remain an advocate for organ transplantation for the rest of her life.
The dark-haired, bespectacled 21-year-old spoke to reporters about the dramatic change in her life since undergoing surgery in April.
She can go for walks and climb stairs, and is regaining her independence.
She thanked the surgeons with the University Health Network care team and especially, she said, the family of the donor.
"I'm fortunate that lungs were there in time for me .. but there are people who wait up to two years, or some people don't get that gift. And I'm so thankful to my donor and their family for — in such a critical time when they're mourning the loss of their loved one — they're able to consider someone else," Campbell said.
The donor, she said, gave her the gift of a second chance at life. "And I will honour that gift every day,"
No longer attached to breathing tubes
But it was her mother, Manon, choking back tears of joy, who told how the family could now go for walks and picnics. Best of all, she said, with her daughter no longer attached to breathing tubes and apparatus, now Hélène "can laugh, out loud and intense like we do. It's so encouraging to see that."
The 21-year-old has become not only an outspoken advocate for organ donation, but also a celebrity of sorts.
On Wednesday Prime, Minister Stephen Harper awarded her the Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal for her unflagging advocacy for organ donation. Her cause has also been picked up by celebrities including Canadian singer Justin Bieber and American talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres.
But in spite of spending months in Toronto before and after her surgery, she's still an Ottawa native, and some things just won't change.
"I'm not a Leafs fan," she said.