Ottawa organ-donation advocate has new lungs

Hélène Campbell, who used Twitter to raise awareness about organ donation, is on life support following her double-lung transplant surgery early Friday morning.

Hélène Campbell not 'out of the woods' after double-lung transplant

From left, parents Alan and Manon Campbell held a news conference to discuss the condition of daughter Hélène Campbell, who underwent double-lung transplant surgery at Toronto General Hospital. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

An Ottawa woman who used Twitter to raise awareness about organ donation is on life support following her double-lung transplant surgery, which she had been waiting for since last summer.

Hélène Campbell's online campaign caught the attention of U.S. TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who had her on the show via Skype in February to talk about organ donations.

Campbell's family and surgeon held a news conference to discuss her condition a few hours after she came out of surgery at 9:30 a.m. ET on Friday. The transplant, which took place at Toronto General Hospital, lasted about seven hours.

Dr. Tom Waddell said Campbell is still on a ventilator and on life support, as there may be a sign of her body rejecting the lungs. Waddell added Campbell's condition was deteriorating going into the surgery.

Campbell's father, Alan, also said his daughter is not "out of the woods" yet and the transplant came at a "perfect time" because she was becoming sicker at a rapid pace.

Campbell, 20, will be unconscious for four days and in intenstive care for the coming weeks, Waddell added. The signs of rejection usually take one to two weeks.

Hélène Campbell's double-lung transplant began at 2:30 a.m. ET on Good Friday and finished at 9:30 a.m. (Facebook)

"She's got many hurdles in the next few days, transplant patients have many hurdles over many years," he said. "Going forward with organ transplantation, the biggest problem is rejection."

Family focused on recovery

Alan Campbell told the media his daughter has always remained positive. He then said the first thing he will tell her when she wakes up is "je t'aime".

Campbell's parents also released a statement immediately after the surgery on their live blog just before speaking to the media.

Surgeon Dr. Tom Waddell discusses the condition of Hélène Campbell after double-lung transplant surgery at Toronto General Hospital. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

"As Hélène recuperates from her double lung transplant operation we would like to take the necessary time to concentrate on her recovery," the statement read.

"When Hélène has sufficiently recovered we will consider all media requests. Until that time we ask for your support in respecting our request for privacy."

The operation normally takes between eight and 12 hours. It also came much earlier than the expected two-year wait.

Ellen DeGeneres tweets out wishes

Ellen DeGeneres also shared her best wishes for Campbell over Twitter.

"I'm so happy my friend Helene Campbell was finally able to get her lungs. I'm sending lots of love and healing thoughts," the talk show host tweeted.

Campbell was brought to Toronto General Hospital for her double-lung transplant. (Neil Herland/CBC)

Campbell discovered she had a degenerative lung disease after she collapsed on a hiking trail last July. Campbell was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Campbell moved to Toronto with her mother while her father and three siblings remained in the Ottawa area.

South Ottawa community supports advocate

Friends at Cedarview Alliance church in the Ottawa neighbourhood of Barrhaven and at the Dairy Queen where she worked raised $25,000 to help the family with expenses. A website called "A Lung Story" was also set up to publicize her story and accept donations.

Last year in Ontario, there were 102 lung transplants, according to the Trillium Gift of Life Network, which was the highest ever in one year. Thirty-three lung transplants have been completed in Ontario so far this year, the network says on its website.

The organ donation network also says on its website that there are currently 66 people waiting for lung transplants in Ontario.