LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Helene Campbell is discovering that being Canada’s most high-profile organ donor advocate allows her to get up close with some celebrities and very personal with others.
Campbell appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show Tuesday nearly a year after undergoing a successful double-lung transplant.
The Ottawa native danced onto the stage to the chorus of “Baby,” a smash from teen pop idol Justin Bieber.
She then revealed that she’d met Bieber, toured his house and taken home a pair of his underwear.
DeGeneres volunteered to sign the white boxers, have Bieber do the same and auction them off to raise money for Campbell’s new charity.
Campbell said the Give2Live foundation will support organ transplant research and help patients and their families.
“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.'”
She said her ultimate goal is to raise enough money to provide housing to those who are awaiting organ transplants.
Campbell shot to international prominence on DeGeneres’ show nearly a year ago during a Skype interview from the apartment in Toronto where she was awaiting surgery.
She suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that could only be treated through a double transplant.
Campbell has provided regular updates on her condition since the surgery was performed in April, chronicling everything from the challenge of trying to write a book to the frustration of grappling with kidney trouble.
She told DeGeneres her lung function is nearly double what it was immediately after the surgery.
Campbell’s story has drawn attention to the issue of organ donation back home.
The social media campaign she launched before her operation prompted thousands to register as organ donors in her home province, and ultimately came to the attention of the federal health minister.
Last July, Leona Aglukkaq announced $10 million in funding to support a national transplant research program.
_ By Michelle McQuigge in Toronto.