WINDSOR, N.S. — Until last year, John Campbell was an avid outdoorsman, a hard-working electrician, and a happy groom-to-be.
Now, the 35-year-old can barely catch his breath.
With his fiancé Katie Nodding and beloved dog Jax by his side, Campbell, of Windsor, left for Ontario at the end of August in hopes of getting a double lung transplant.
To help the couple as they face this medical situation head on, family and friends are rallying behind them, holding various fundraisers to help offset the costs and alleviate some stress.
“He didn’t want to do the Go Fund Me or any of that stuff. It’s just gotten to the point where he had to. It’s not in his nature at all,” said long-time friend Jennifer Burton in a phone interview.
Burton, who became friends with Campbell when she moved to Windsor in elementary school, said she hopes people will come to his aid as he tries to regain his strength.
“He’s a part of Hants County, he’s a part of the family. He’s a good person. He deserves health. He deserves all the help he can get,” Burton said.
“John is just a sweetheart.”
His mother, Susan Spence-Campbell, of Falmouth, says an online auction is going to launch on Sept. 14 to help raise money to offset the cost of awaiting the double lung transplant. She calls the price of accommodations in Toronto exorbitant and hopes the community will help them raise about $40,000 in total. The Go Fund Me, which was launched a few months ago, has raised about $21,000 to date.
“You can’t imagine how emotionally difficult it is to see him struggle to breathe,” said Spence-Campbell, pausing for a moment to maintain her composure.
‘Strong will to live’
This is the second time Campbell has faced a medical scare.
When he was 15 years old, he was diagnosed with Fanconi anemia, which is a rare, genetic blood disorder that prevents bone marrow from making enough new blood cells. Spence-Campbell said her son overcame this rare disease by receiving a bone marrow transplant, thanks to a distant cousin from the United States who was a match and donated stem cells.
Campbell recovered quickly and proceeded to live life to the fullest.
Then, last year, when he was 34, Spence-Campbell said her son began feeling out of breath.
“A year ago, John said ‘mom, I’m sick again,” recalled Spence-Campbell.
“This is a man who was physically active throughout his life, who loved the outdoors. He worked hard. He was an electrician… and suddenly, he couldn’t do anything,” said Spence-Campbell. “It’s emotionally tough for him.”
Doctors discovered his lungs were beginning to fail in May of 2017. By September, he was using an oxygen machine full-time and could no longer work or enjoy his once active lifestyle.
Spence-Campbell said his lungs were down to 17 per cent operating capacity — causing him to be winded from simply walking from the car to the house.
Doctors were treating him for ‘graft-versus-host disease’ and noted the damage to his lungs was irreversible.
Prior to being accepted into the transplant program in Toronto, Campbell was on a detailed drug prescription regimen and was travelling bi-weekly to New Brunswick for treatment.
“He has a strong will to live,” said Spence-Campbell.
And his family has a strong desire to see him beat the illness and return to Hants County.
Burton, who works in Alberta and returns to Hants County frequently, said it’s heartbreaking to see Campbell so sick.
“He told me he was sick in the summer and he was still in decent health. But every time I came home — I work in Alberta, it just got progressively worse,” said Burton.
“It was really difficult to see him that way.”
Burton says despite the sickness, Campbell has remained positive and family and friends are optimistic things will work out.
“If things go well and he heals fast, maybe they can get married next September,” said Spence-Campbell, noting what a positive person his fiancé is.
Nodding is on leave from her job as an education assistant at the Falmouth District School and her job at the Spitfire Arms Pub in Windsor in order to aid Campbell. She has found an apartment near the hospital where Campbell will undergo surgery. Spence-Campbell says Nodding uses a wheelchair to bring Campbell to and from appointments at the hospital, and they are all hoping for some positive news soon.
“He’s been a bit more down lately because he has been getting sicker and not able to do stuff, but overall, he’s a champion,” said Burton, noting she’s hoping to visit the couple soon.
How to help
There are a variety of ways to help John Campbell as he awaits a double lung transplant. They are:
• Visit the auction site and place a bid (starts Sept. 14, 2018): https://www.32auctions.com/helpjohnbreathe; with a new auction being posted weekly with a new address (for example, Week 2 will be https://www.32auctions.com/helpjohnbreathe2)
• Email to donate items to the auction: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Support the Go Fund Me: https://ca.gofundme.com/skms7-help-john-breathe