Hélène Campbell wants to lose her tubes and breathe on her own again.
The 20-year-old is currently in Toronto waiting to get a call that a lung has become available so she can have a transplant and remove the oxygen tubes that are required to help her breath.
Campbell discovered she had a degenerative lung disease after a camping trip with friends last July.
The group was on a hiking trail and her friend’s boyfriend had to carry her back when she became short of breath.
“It was just like, this isn’t right,” Campbell said. “Someone my age should be able to do this.”
Optimistic and bright despite the limitations of being tethered to an oxygen tank, Campbell said she had been travelling in Spain and then later London when she really noticed that something was wrong.
“I just thought I was really out of shape and I should do something when I get back home,” she said.
Following the camping trip, Campbell was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis – there is scarring on her lungs that impairs that elasticity and makes it difficult to breathe in fully.
By October her lung function was at 24 per cent. The cause is unknown.
Campbell had to move to Toronto with her mother, Manon, while her father and three siblings remain in Barrhaven.
The wait could take up to two years.
Before the diagnosis and the move, Campbell worked at a Dairy Queen in the Marketplace Mall in Barrhaven and at the Riverside Hospital as a clerk in the dialysis unit. She had been saving up money since she graduated high school to attend film school.
Now she has been forced to reassess her path because there will be limitations even after the transplant.
“I don’t know, maybe it’s a good thing,” she said of the plans she has had to change. “It will give me more focus.”
Despite her condition, friends and family highlight her optimism on a site dedicated to her medical journey at www.alungstory.ca
Campbell said there are no words to express the feelings she has about the support from friends and the community.
Thanks to the Gauthier family and the staff at Dairy Queen, her church Cedarview Alliance and friends, $25,000 has been raised to help with living expenses while she is away.
“I am very humbled,” she said.
Campbell describes herself as very social and active, and said sometimes not being able to connect with friends can get her down.
“If I go up the stairs I have to take a break after every three,” she said. “And I can’t really go out with my friends so sometimes that’s hard.”
Despite her limitations, Campbell maintains a blog and twitter account, so people can see how she is doing.
The posts are endearing, and at times poke fun at her situation.
“If I was a rapper I would be Lil’ Wheezy,” reads one post.
The coming months will be a whirlwind of tests and appointments, and then waiting.
If there is one thing she has learned, Campbell said, it’s how important it is to be an organ donor.
“It’s so easy and it saves lives,” she said. “A transplant will give me a second chance.”