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Ms. Hélène Campbell
c/o L'Agence Mensour Agency Ltd.
41 ch. Springfield Rd.
Ottawa, Ontario K1M 1C8

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My Summer Vay-Cay!

Hola mi amigos,

Let me start this post off with a ‘lil’ welcome back ;).  I have not blogged since June 20th. Now thats what I like to call a dry spell...

My ‘Dance card’ has been pretty full lately, but that does not mean I won’t be dancing with Ellen DeGeneres... They still plan on having me shaking and groovin, its just a matter of health. I want to dance at my BEST. Ya know?

Remember those essays you had to do when you got back to school after summer vacation? well, here’s mine ... 

What I did over summer 2012 - by Hélène Campbell

My summer really started over the weekend of July 14th. That is when I got permission from my doctors at Toronto General Hospital to go home!! Not just to my temporary home in Toronto, but to home home, in Ottawa! Good Ole’ Alfie’s Stompin Grounds!! There I was, let free, to be at mi casa at Lasta :)

Momma Lion (otherwise known as my mother, Manon) and I packed up our things in Toronto. I am sad to say I left some things behind, but like Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, ‘I will Be Back”. I took my Reeses Peanut Butter cups home though.

I was looking forward to going back to Ottawa, but as happy as I was to get back home, there was some sadness. My memory of details there had sharpened, things like the interior of our temporary Toronto home. But more importantly, of the remarkable people I met. So many very kind strangers who treated my mom and I so well; neighbors, storekeepers, burger restaurant employees (you know who you are ;) ), deli employees, taxi drivers, physiotherapists, nurses, doctors and everyday people on the street who recognized us. On Monday, July 16, as were leaving, literally “a man on the street” said “hey, aren't you the girl with the lung transplant?”. When I said “yes” he wished me good luck and said that my story gave him a reason to quit smoking. That was neat.It was going to be so different this time, and I knew it. I could go to my room without wheezing! My breath was still taken away as I opened the door to my bedroom. I found out you can cram quite the amount of people in my room.

July 18th My family attended a news conference at the Government Conference Center in downtown Ottawa. My mother and I received such a warm welcome! I was super honoured that the Minister of Health, Leona Aglukkaq, attended and announced $10 Million in government funding for Transplant research in Canada. Thats So Exciting! Thank you to all who supported and helped out with this! (Ottawa … I love you!)!!

Then, I kind of dropped out of sight. I tweeted about putting out the garbage, then I didn’t tweet for about three weeks...  One of my followers asked me if the garbage man took me with him... hahah! 

I had an intense schedule before I left Toronto. Medically, there were tests and then my usually physiotherapy. With the organ donation awareness side I had been quite active, attending a number of events. When we came back to O-Town, I began my recovery. I needed to rest (and so did my mom!).

My family has a trailer we go to. I spent a lot of time up there in July and August. I was even there last week. Chilly, but I loved the colors. Being up there is awesome and is a huge part of my second chance at life. I can swim, hike, canoe, etc! I can do them all now in moderation. Sometimes, I could be very quiet, do some reflecting, and concentrate on resting. A big change is that I can sit near a campfire now - a definite no no when you are on oxygen...

Of course being back with my family has been WONDERFUL!! I missed them so much. They are all so strong. We are a family of six, I have two sisters and a brother plus my mom and dad.  It is so nice to just be together, even if we don’t say anything. I can say the same thing when it comes to being with my friends here in Ottawa. I missed people so much.

I really enjoy just walking, which was very tough stuff before my transplant! My sisters and I go for walks and it means so much. I also volunteer to take the neighbor’s dog for a walk. I’ve only done it once though so I’ll have to pick that up!

So what about my recovery? I am recovering from the double lung transplant fairly well. All transplant recipients expect some issues. There can be issues of organ rejection or infection, and there can be issues with the anti-rejection medications (I am down to about 30 pills a day!). In my case there is a problem with my hemoglobin; the red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body.  My new lungs are doing their job of making the oxygen, but my blood isn’t doing a good job of carrying that oxygen. They think it is due to the kidneys, I am not worried because my doctors are working on it. If you see me in person I look pale sometimes and I get tired easily. So, I have to be careful to rest enough and, interestingly, drink enough water and juice (yum). Having spiffy water bottles is my new thing...

Transplant recipients have to maintain body strength through physiotherapy, it is part of the recovery process. I love to go to the gym at 10am...that way I can watch The Ellen DeGeneres Show while working out.. Pumpin That Iron boy! Arm wrestles anyone?

I wear my Reeses T-shirt. It creates an image of a laughing orange blob on a treadmill. ;) Its pretty awesome.

I got to do a lot this summer, went to some weddings, swam (another “could not do” before transplant), and broke the sound barrier with my friend Felix Baumgartner... well, not the last one … but you never know. ;)

As the summer wound down I started getting busier again. I’ve been doing some speaking at about organ donation awareness at a few events. I really enjoy doing it.

I am also writing a book about the last year; because let's be honest, it's a bit of ‘alungstory’. Writing a book is a whole new experience for me and it has its challenges. I’ll promise to do my best to deliver a story that will express grrrrattitude (attitude with a little “grrrr”).

As I have said before and will say again … I don't want to stop my campaign to raise organ donation registration awareness. I not only want to help people on the organ transplant waiting list but also to honour the gift of a second chance I received from my donor. In Ontario alone there are, right now, over 1500 people waiting for a second chance at life through an organ transplant. Every three days one person on the transplant waiting list dies. I am sad to say a very dear friend of mine, who was on the transplant list, passed away in July; she was 20-years-old. I am dedicating this post in her memory. She, along with many others, fought an amazing fight and kept hope until the end. 

Love You Lung Time



In Memory Of L.M.

Ma chère amie, je t’aime de tout mon coeur. 


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Reader Comments (4)

Hi, Helene!

My husband and I have followed your journey as closely as the media will allow since your tweet to Justin Bieber hit the media attention. We have laughed and cried and held our breath (literally and figuratively) throughout what little we know of your story.

My husband has only 16% lung capacity left from years of working with corrosive chemicals and minimum protection as an auto mechanic. On top of that, he smoked until almost three years ago (when just inhaling would cause him to cough until he brought up blood -- so that scared him enough to quit!). He was put on the list to go to the Respiratory Rehab Program at the Ottawa General Rehabilitation Centre and finally was admitted in February to "graduate" six weeks later with a better knowledge of how to pace himself. He does not qualify for home oxygen as he processes 95% of his oxygen, but he does not have the room for more. So he is not capable of doing a lot more than cheer for those in a similar battle (and mourn for the young who do not make it).

All this is to say, you are in our thoughts daily. We have never met you, but you are very special to us. We love your courage, your heart, and your humour, and we are very proud of you and your family as Ambassadors of Strength -- it is an added plus that you are an Alfie fan, too, and from Ottawa. Keep getting stronger and we hope your hemoglobin stabilizes soon.

October 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRuth (from Ottawa)

you've got so much love going your way hélène! i wish i could give you a bear hug x

October 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdanyloal

Grow strong 'Little Champion' knowing that you are always surrounded by love and prayers!

October 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLyn & David

Hi Helene, your story has interested me since day one. My mom and I always spoke of you...
My mom passed away on Oct 4 2012 @ the Toronto General. She had the best doctor's and the most compassionate nurses that i have ever met . My mom was diagonsed with lung cancer 6yrs ago and I was told she had 6 months to 1 yr to live. That doctor sent us to PMH and we got to meet Dr. Brade (soon to be my mom's hero). At 67 my mom still worked everyday and at that time raising her 13yr and 17yr grandsons. Dr Brade felt my mom's energy and her positive attitude towards life....he offered my mom to go into a clinical study and my mom jumped at it. ( i told her if she read the side affects she probably wouldn't do it!) she said to me 'if it doesn't help me maybe it will help someone else!) that says it all right there!! my mom was a real trumper!!! she went through treatment with flying colours and went into remission....recently this year there was a change, she now had fluid on her lung that had the cancer. soon we learned she had it on both. we both new she was in trouble.. the doc's drained both lungs and she woke up in icu. We learnt within minutes that "2 lungs" were working and we gave each other a high five. things were good for a few days. we celebrated my mom's b day on the 1st and blew the candles out together (my bday was on the 11, what a hard day that was) and then my mom's health took a turn for the worst...she passed away on Oct 4 ... as i was getting ready to leave Trillium gift a life was on the line and we donated my mom's eyes because who wouldn't want to have gorgeous blue eyes!!! there's so much more to this story,,, maybe one day i will write a book

October 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Barker

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