Ottawa organ-donation advocate undergoing transplant

An Ottawa woman who used Twitter to raise awareness about organ donation is undergoing the lung transplant she's been waiting for since last summer.

Hélène Campbell's online campaign caught the attention of U.S. TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who had her on the show via Skype in February to talk about organ donations.

Campbell's surgery began this morning at 12:40 a.m. ET at Toronto General Hospital.

"The surgeon came at quarter after 12 and he said, 'We have a set of lungs. They are compatible. We are good to go for surgery if you're still willing to go ahead with it,' and Hélène said, 'Really? Absolutely!' " mother Manon Campbell said.

"And she was very happy. She said, 'Oh, I'm really happy,' but at the same time she said 'also, I'm very nervous.' "

The operation normally takes between eight and 12 hours.

Ottawa woman has degenerative lung disease

Campbell, 20, discovered she had a degenerative lung disease after she collapsed on a hiking trail last July. Campbell was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which she described as "like a hardening of your lungs so that elastic, that ability to breathe in fully, is kind of lost."

Campbell moved to Toronto with her mother while her father and three siblings remained in the Ottawa area.

Friends at Cedarview Alliance church in the Ottawa neighbourhood of Barrhaven and at the Dairy Queen where she worked raised $25,000 to help the family with expenses. A website called "A Lung Story" was also set up to publicize her story and accept donations.

The wait for the lung transplant had been expected to take up to two years. Following the operation, lung transplant recipients are placed on a ventilator to assist with breathing and are moved to the hospital's intensive care unit.

Last year in Ontario, there were 102 lung transplants, according to the Trillium Gift of Life Network, which was the highest ever in one year. Thirty-three lung transplants have been completed in Ontario so far this year, the network says on its website.

The organ donation network also says on its website that there are currently 66 people waiting for lung transplants in Ontario.