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Hélène Campbell spent her 21st birthday, April 18, 2012, in the Intensive Care Unit at Toronto General Hospital. To help her celebrate the day, her nurse brought her a Booster Juice smoothie.

(Photo: Courtesy of Alan Campbell)

A year and a half ago, Hélène Campbell desperately needed new lungs. The 20-year-old Ottawa resident was suffering from a degenerative lung condition– and was placed on a transplant waiting list. In early April of 2012, she received donor lungs. After a seven-hour double lung transplant at UHN's Toronto General Hospital, Hélène was given a new chance at life.

Today, on April 18, her 22nd birthday, an energetic and grateful Hélène reflects on the journey she's been on, the gratitude she has for her donor and care team, and her quest to raise awareness about organ donation.

By Hélène Campbell

It's my 22nd birthday today and I am feeling so very lucky and pretty healthy, too. To celebrate, I plan to eat something special and to dance to my heart's content.

Many women my age wouldn't think twice about living to be 22 or of being able to breathe, but a little more than a year ago– I wasn't sure I'd live to see my 21st birthday.

It was early April. I had no energy. I couldn't get out of bed and breathing felt like drowning.

I had been working with a multidisciplinary team of specialists at Toronto General– physiotherapists, lab technicians, respirologists, anaesthetists, nurses, surgeons, social workers and psychiatrists– to name a few, to get into shape to survive a transplant.

They prepared me mentally and physically for the transplant operation that saved my life.

When my 21st birthday rolled around, there were no balloons and no birthday cake in the Intensive Care Unit. But, I had received my new lungs and I was happy just to be able to breathe and savour the flavor of swishing a Booster Juice smoothie around in my mouth. I couldn't actually drink it because of the trac I had received the day before.

I am so very grateful to all of the wonderful, talented people at TGH who helped prepare me for my transplant, the OR team and those who worked with me throughout my post-transplant recovery. It really did take a team of people to get me to where I am now. I can't thank them enough.

I also have a huge space in my heart for my donor and the donor's family. All the specialists in the world could not have saved me without those donated lungs.

Organ donation is a cause very dear to my heart. Celebrities like talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres and singer Justin Bieber have helped me raise awareness of the need to register to donate.

As a young woman who can now dream about the life ahead of me, I encourage you to consider organ donation. Please visit Beadonor.ca/123. It will take you only two minutes to register to be a donor or to check to see if you are, in fact, registered.

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While still intubated post-transplant, Hélène Campbell began her physiotherapy walking the halls of the ICU. (Photo: Bruce Deachman, Ottawa Citizen)

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