Hélène Campbell and Organ Donation

Hélène Campbell and Organ Donation

e-Health 2013 Special Report

Twenty years old and just back from a big trip, Hélène Campbell was told her lungs were functioning at a dwindling capacity. There was considerable scarring. After first being diagnosed with asthma, the Ottawa native was told in September 2011 that she in fact had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The only solution was a double lung transplant.

Since then, it’s been quite the trip for Campbell, now Canada’s most recognizable organ donor advocate—and a speaker at e-Health 2013 last month. She bided her time waiting for a transplant by raising awareness for organ and blood donation. She had a Twitter exchange with Justin Bieber, who answered her call to promote www.beadonor.ca. Later, the video she sent to Ellen DeGeneres was answered, most memorably.

On Good Friday in 2012, she received that double lung transplant at Toronto General Hospital. Since then, she has made appearances in a slew of places, raising considerable awareness for the critical, ongoing issue of organ donation.

“People are waiting every day for organs they need,” she told the e-Health audience. “We have the legacy of life we can hand to other people.”

Campbell’s main focus is young people, for whom she aims to erase the taboo around organ donation and instill a culture of acceptance. Donating an organ isn’t strange or something that other people do—anyone can give the gift of life.

Campbell’s lively presence on the e-Health stage (“I’m speaking quickly because I can now!”) is a testament to the energy she puts into a mission she readily accepted after life delivered a sweeping curveball.

Further into organ donation

CIHI’s most recent Canadian Organ Replacement Register report revealed that 2,124 Canadians received a transplant in 2011 and, by year’s end, 4,543 others continued to wait for news of a donor. (In both cases, kidney transplants were predominant.) Another 265 Canadians died waiting for an organ.

That year marked the introduction of online donor registration. British Columbia was first out of the gate, followed by Ontario and then Manitoba. It proved an easy method for people to register themselves as donors.

Spokespeople from Ontario’s Trillium Gift of Life Network said a second big step was “routine notification.” Here, hospitals must notify Trillium of a potential donor, which can then approach the family and gauge the situation. This helped contribute to record donor numbers in Ontario.

Raising awareness also means shedding myths around organ donation. Here are a few, courtesy of Trillium:

  • I am too old or too sick: Not true.
  • My religion doesn’t permit it: Every major religion says saving a life is always the right thing to do.
  • Doctors will work less hard to save my life because I’m a donor: A physician’s first and only goal is to save a patient’s life. Teams who work on donations are separate.
  • I’ve already made my wishes known by signing a donor card.

That last one is important because, since registration went online, even those with signed cards must log on to confirm it. The best step is to head to your provincial ministry’s website, enter your health card number and check your status.

If you’ve had the chance to catch Hélène Campbell, you will have heard this potent statistic: one organ donor can save up to eight lives.

CIHI proudly co-hosted e-Health 2013 in Ottawa from May 26 to 29.