Double lung transplant recipient Hélène Campbell honoured for kindness

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News

Canada's most famous transplant patient has been honoured by the United Way for her kindness.

Hélène Campbell, 21, became a national celebrity when she used her personal story of receiving a double lung transplant as a platform to talk about the importance of organ donation.

She started the Twitter campaign #BeAnOrganDonor while she remained on a transplant waiting list. When Justin Bieber showed public support for the campaign, it quickly went viral.

Campbell underwent a double lung transplant in April of 2012. Shortly after, Ellen Degeneres promised to dance with her on TV when Campbell recovered enough to travel.

And Campbell did just that — and promoted organ donation before an international television audience.

"It's such a stressful time waiting for an organ. It's the hardest thing I've ever been through," Campbell said on the show.

"Having received this awesome gift from a donor, I'm just so grateful...They've given me life, and I've been through it, so I'm just able to express to people and tell them, 'This is where it's at and this is what we can do to help.'"

On Wednesday, Campbell was honoured with United Way's Community Builder Award at City Hall in Ottawa.

The award came as a surprise. She had been there to speak as part of Ontario's Kindness Week.

"My whole story is actually because of a random act of kindness," said Campbell to a large crowd in Jean Pigott Hall. "The fact that I’m here today and able to stand here is because someone acted out of kindness."

"It's just really inspiring to know that the community feels that I've given back to the community that has built me up into who I am today," Campbell added. "So I'm very encouraged and want to encourage people to keep giving."

"To see her as we did in the papers with all of those machines on her and not able to function and now able to dance on the Ellen Show... people can see that organ donation works and saves lives," Kindness Week founder Rabbi Reuven Bulka said at the ceremony.

According to the Trillium Life Network, organ donation in Ottawa increased by more than 7,000 people after Campbell's campaign.

Twins Raven and Phoenix Miller, who were inspired by Campbell to raise nearly $8,000 for charity, were at the award ceremony.

"She's just a very big role model and nice," Phoenix told CBC News.

Campbell told reporters that she's writing a book about her experience with organ donation.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it," she said of campaigning.