WINDSOR, N.S. — A Windsor man is taking great strides towards recovery now that he has a new set of lungs.
John Campbell travelled to Ontario with his fiancée Katie Nodding and their beloved rescue dog Jax at the end of August to await surgery. For Campbell, a once avid outdoorsman, every breath he took was a struggle.
In 2017, he learned his lungs were failing. By 2018, at 35 years old, he required an oxygen tank, and most tasks were too physically draining. Just walking from the car to a building was taxing. He was in dire need of a double lung transplant.
Campbell was expecting to have to wait months, if not a year or longer, for a suitable transplant. However, much to his family’s surprise, he was prepped for surgery within a month of being in Ontario. The operation took place Sept. 20 and he’s well on his way to a full recovery.
His mother, Susan Spence-Campbell, of Falmouth, was beaming with excitement as she described how far her son has come in just three short months.
“He has met all of the benchmarks as they’ve gone along. The doctors are very pleased with his progress,” said Spence-Campbell.
“It was a five-hour surgery, which is remarkably fast. His surgeon said it was perfect in every way, every step. The lungs functioned immediately. There was very little bleeding. It was just a textbook surgery,”she said.
And to make the surgery all the more special, it turns out the surgeon completed her residency in Halifax and attended medical school with Dr. Tom Enright, who is the son of longtime Windsor physician Dr. Bill Enright.
“She and John were talking about Howard Dill before the surgery,” said Spence-Campbell, who had flown to be with Campbell and Nodding the day of the operation.
He was in the hospital for 17 days, and is currently recuperating in a nearby apartment.
“It’s still a long recovery period, and partially that’s because his body was so weakened beforehand,” she said. “In order to build up that strength, it does take a lot of time.”
Campbell has been diligently attending physio, eating healthy and working out, and his commitment to regaining his strength shows. He no longer needs a wheelchair to get around, nor does he need an oxygen tank. He is able to go for walks with Nodding and Jax, and is slowly but surely regaining his health. He still has to be careful as there’s a risk of infection, but the family is optimistic about the future.
This is the second time that Campbell has faced a medical scare. He was diagnosed with Fanconi anemia when he was 15 years old. The rare disorder prevents bone marrow from making enough new blood cells. He received a bone marrow transplant thanks to a distant cousin from the United States.
Thankful for community support
Spence-Campbell, who shared with the newspaper how devastating it was to see her son struggle to breathe pre-surgery, is full of smiles now that he’s on the mend.
“He’s looking good. His face is almost like his old face, which is lovely,” she said.
Spence-Campbell visited the couple over the holidays. She witnessed first-hand just how much progress her son has made.
“The most wonderful thing in the world that I saw when I was there in December, January, was him running up stairs in front of me,” she said, eyes glistening.
“It’s a miracle to see him being able to begin to do things again. It’s just incredible,” she continued. “I’m not often speechless but it makes me speechless.”
Spence-Campbell said the community support that they received meant the world to them. Prior to Campbell leaving for his operation, a successful Go Fund Me campaign was held as was an online auction.
The funds raised helped alleviate the financial burden associated with such a trip so that the couple could focus on what was important.
“I can’t say enough about how much John and Katie and I appreciate how the community rallied around them,” said Spence-Campbell.
“It’s a very difficult process but not having to worry financially — it was the community that did that,” she said.
“They still kind of sit back in absolute awe of how people have supported them.”
It’s anticipated Campbell, Nodding and Jax will return to Nova Scotia in the springtime.
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