Hélène Campbell and The Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson at the Toronto premiere of the movie. The Ottawa woman, who is on the transplant waitlist for new lungs, is on a crusade to increase donor registrations nationally.CAMPBELL FAMILY PHOTO
Hélène Campbell has set her sights on a national scope to increase organ and tissue donation registration.
This time she’s going after Don Cherry and Hockey Night in Canada.
Campbell, who suffers from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, came to the public’s attention in January, shortly after being placed on the waitlist for a double lung transplant. The Ottawa woman, who now lives in Toronto to be close to General Hospital, had started an awareness campaign and got Justin Bieber to tweet his support. Donor registrations started climbing immediately, with 1,760 new registrations in Ontario the next week.
The 20-year-old then targeted Ellen DeGeneres, and was surprised with a Skype appearance during a taping of the talk show, where DeGeneres declared her belief in organ donation and told Campbell she would to fly her to Los Angeles as soon as she can travel after her transplant. Meanwhile, DeGeneres arranged for Campbell to attend Monday’s Canadian premiere of The Hunger Games in Toronto.
After the Feb. 16 appearance on Ellen, 5,027 registered the next week in Ontario alone.
Before Campbell started her campaign, there were typically 50 online registrations a day at Ontario’s beadonor.ca.
The daily average has been about 180 since, which is giving hope and joy for future recipients, Campbell says. The province also has an online campaign running currently, which is helping impact the numbers, but there’s no denying the power of social media and celebrity.
That’s where Twitter newcomer Don Cherry comes in to the picture.
Campbell’s Twitter @alungstory account is approaching 10,000 followers who are now after Cherry to bring the awareness crusade to Coach’s Corner to help “ice the shortage.”
But why Cherry?
“A different demographic and it’s across Canada,” Campbell says. “It reaches the demographic of people who have actually signed donor cards, but they need to know that’s not enough.
“I want them to register online and just talk about it with their families,” she adds. “Encourage people to have the talk once, just have a discussion about it. A lot of people are afraid to talk about (death). Why not do it now and be done?”
Trillium Gift of Life Network, the provincial agency mandated with organizing organ and tissue donation and transplant, just announced Ontario’s registration rate is now at 21 per cent. That’s up from 2009’s 18 per cent, but there is much to do to make a true difference for the 1,500 waiting for life-saving organ transplants in Ontario at any given time. By comparison, the U.S. has 35 per cent of its citizens registered on online lists.
Campbell recently suffered her own setback. She got “the call” on March 11, at 3:30 a.m. that there was a match. She and her mother made frantic phone calls, having difficulty rousing the family.
“I’d been told before that there was such a thing as a false alarm,” she told the Star. “I told myself ‘Don’t think about this too, too much, it could be a false alarm.’ I was prepared if it was and I was prepared if it wasn’t.”
The transplant was cancelled a few hours later when it was deemed the lungs were not suitable.
Although not the outcome she had hoped for, Campbell was able to attend Monday night’s premiere of The Hunger Games, which she would have missed if the surgery had gone ahead.
“I met Liam (Hemsworth) and Josh (Hutcherson), who play Peeta and Gale,” Campbell says. “I got pictures with them and I got signatures.
“My last name is Campbell and my joke is ‘I Campbell-ieve it.’”
But the advancing illness has her feeling “not the best,” she admits.
“My energy is lower and my coughing has picked up,” she says. “Overall I feel kind of crummy. But there’s not much I can do about it, it’s part of this. So you just embrace what you have and keep going.”
Her lung capacity, shrinking from the disease she was diagnosed with last October, now sits at 20 per cent. “It’s a scary number because it just keeps getting smaller, but you don’t dwell on it. The only thing that trumps fear is hope.”
So it’s back to her awareness campaign. She gets strength from what the numbers tell her.
“You Have the Power to Donate Life – to become an organ and tissue donor Sign-up today!
Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
New Zealand, register at Organ Donation New Zealand
South Africa, http://www.odf.org.za/
United States, donatelife.net
United Kingdom, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save or enhance the lives of up to fifty people with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants (see allotransplantation). One tissue donor can help by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves
Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant. Organs can save lives, corneas renew vision, and tissue may help to restore someone's ability to walk, run or move freely without pain. Life Begins with You.