Woman who asked Bieber to promote organ donation shares story
Published Tuesday, January 31, 2012 7:49PM EST
Hélène Campbell wasn't looking for fame when she posted an online video plea earlier in January to tell the world she needed a lung transplant.
But fame -- and the über-famous Justin Bieber -- found the young woman after she challenged Canadians to become donors and give the gift of life to those in need.
"Hi. My Name is Hélène. I'm 20 years old and I've recently been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. I'm in need of a lung transplant and guys, I need your help."
With those words, and a tweet issued to Bieber for help, Campbell launched her campaign to raise awareness about her rare lung disease.
"Hey @justinbieber! I BELIEB you should use that Canadian voice of yours and help save lives like mine #beaanorgandonor beadonor.ca.ca #giveblood," Helene wrote on Jan. 19 from her Twitter account @alungstory.
That awareness grew by the millions after Bieber retweeted Campbell's message to 16.5 million Twitter followers and followed it up with a plea of his own, asking followers to help spread the word.
"I issued a challenge just to raise awareness. People brought it together with social media and radio, TV, newspapers. It picked up really crazy," Campbell said on Tuesday on CTV's Canada AM.
Before Bieber connected to this cause, celebrities such as Rachel McAdams, Howie Mandel and Rick Mercer threw their support behind Campbell.
"In the first few days the numbers surged," said Ronnie Gavsie, the president and CEO of the Trillium Gift of Life Network, which operates the BeADonor.ca website.
"Just the fact that Hélène reached out to him caused the numbers to trigger," Gavsie said on Canada AM.
Campbell, an Ottawa resident, was first misdiagnosed with asthma.
When Campbell was told that she had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and would require a lung transplant, her young life was thrown into a tailspin.
"It was a flip side, for sure. I was busy, busy, busy. Then just stop," said Campbell.
Campbell has since moved to Toronto for treatment and is on a waiting list for new organs.
Today, Campbell uses a walker and oxygen to assist her with her breathing.
"For me this feels normal because it's what I've known," said Campbell.
The 20-year-old tries to lead a normal life. She dances to music on occasion. She even does yoga, although the breathing required in this form of exercise can be a challenge.
When instructors tell their students to inhale and exhale, Campbell said, "I can't keep it that long. So, it's tough."
On a normal day, BeADonor.ca sees approximately 50 online registrations and 300 visits to the site.
When Campbell launched her campaign on Jan. 19 the numbers spiked to 326 registrations and 1,458 visits to BeADonor.ca.
Those numbers, and Canada's growing interest in her story and organ donations, have given Campbell renewed hope.
"We aren't really aware until we're affected we're affected by it, or someone around us is affected," said Campbell.
"I'm so young. It's hard for people to realize why this happened. But let's make a difference. Let's make a change," she said.