Claire Wineland was the social media star who inspired others by openly documenting her struggle with cystic fibrosis, while simultaneously embracing life to the fullest and motivating others to do the same.
Sadly, this past Sunday the 21-year-old suffered a stroke following her lung transplant surgery and passed away.
She was surrounded by her mother, Melissa Yeager, and her father, John Wineland.
At the age of 13, Claire launched Claire's Place Foundation, Inc. The organization was created to promote better awareness of cystic fibrosis and to help improve the quality of life for those affected by it. The foundation released a statement on Monday regarding Claire's passing, and said she "was not in any pain and the medical staff said it was the most peaceful passing they had ever witnessed."
Claire had battled with cystic fibrosis throughout her life. According to CNN, as much as 25% of the young girl's life was spent in a hospital.
Despite the emotional and physical struggles that came with her diagnosis, Claire also acknowledged the outlook that it gave her on making the most out of her life. In a 2017 TEDx Talk, Claire discusses this with her audience.
"Because I wanted to share the fact that you can suffer and be okay. You can suffer and still make something. That the quality of your life isn't determined by whether you're healthy, or sick or rich or poor, not at all."
"It's determined by what you make out of your experience as a human being."
It was this positive outlook and engaging personality, combined with her heartfelt honesty, that also inspired her 110,000 followers on Instagram.
Prior to her lung transplant, Claire had declined to get one, knowing it wasn't for her. She changed her mind, however, when her health started declining to the point that she was having trouble engaging in activities that made her happy.
She worked hard in order to get her health up so that she could qualify to be on the list for the surgery, which also included attending an informative meeting at the UC San Diego Health's transplant center.
On Aug. 26, Claire received word that it was now time for her surgery.
She shared what would become her final Instagram post that same day, along with a message of joy and gratitude.
"So grateful for everything this month. I’m grateful for all the people who donated to help me get through transplant. I’m grateful for the doctors that’ll be scooping out these lungs and giving me some more life to work with. I'm grateful for the chance to keep being a person. I’m grateful for my own head and for all the weird things in it. I’m just really overwhelmingly grateful for all of this."
"There is no passionate rant to be had here I am just happy and thought I would let you all know."
Although the transplant surgery was successfully completed, soon after Claire suffered from a stroke that caused her to go into a medically induced coma.
Though doctors tried emergency surgeries to help, it became evident to her loved ones that this was Claire's time to go. She then passed away peacefully surrounded by her parents.
Cystic Fibrosis is described as a "progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time."
This disease is caused by a defective gene that enables the buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas, and other organs. That mucus can clog the airways in the lungs and trap bacteria in there, which can lead to infections, damage, and respiratory failure. Mucus in the pancreas can prevent the release of digestive enzymes that allow the body to break down food and absorb nutrients.
According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, more than 30,000 people in the United States are living with CF and over 70,000 are living with it worldwide. The majority of people with CF are diagnosed as young as 2 years old.
For Claire Wineland, her time on Earth may have been all-too-brief, but she certainly made the most of her 21 years and inspired thousands of others to do the same.
Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer and Michigan native. When she's not writing, Jill enjoys Zumba class, travel, and referencing classic Seinfeld episodes.