Claire Wineland was a 21 year old social media influencer who was born with cystic fibrosis. She made her presence known on the internet through her Youtube videos, social media posts, and motivational talks. Her topics included her illness, mortality, and living life despite being sick.
On August 26, 2018, she received a double lung transplant. After weeks of posting about how this surgery could double her lifespan and how she had finally made the decision to get her sick lungs replaced, it finally happened. I was happy for her, even though I was just reading about it online and not actually a part of her life.
Although the surgery was successful, she suffered a massive stroke shortly after.
Her family decided to cut her life support on September 3.
I read the headline this morning, still in bed at 6am, procrastinating getting up for class. My heart immediately dropped. Claire has been someone I've been following on all social media platforms for quite some time now. She was an undeniably positive influence in the internet world of toxicity and hate, and I felt an almost magnetic attraction towards her.
Claire didn't post Youtube videos regularly and when she did, she usually was bare-faced, in her bedroom or hospital room, and expressing the most recent thing that has been on her mind or happening in her life. I waited for these videos, so uncut, raw, and real.
The biggest thing that stood out to me, and probably so many others, about Claire was her ability to be so happy and positive while being so sick and knowing she could die any day at the same time. I couldn't imagine what that felt like, yet she was still out there, chasing her dreams to the best of her physical ability, and being successful.
Claire started speaking publicly when she was 14, and from there she continued to talk to people and spread her message. Everyone wanted to hear what this beautiful, charismatic girl had to say. Eventually, she started a non-profit to raise money to help people with cystic fibrosis as a teenager.
In 2017, she delivered a Tedx Talk after doing a series of motivational speaking gigs. This was one of the first videos of her that I saw. I was amazed. She began with her experience with cystic fibrosis but soon turned it into something extremely inspirational to me: you can suffer and still live a life of meaning. This was something I had never heard before.
Claire did not deny her suffering. She did not make everyone think it was easy to be sick. She was unbelievably honest about her experience and included all the messy emotions she felt along with it. But she did not let illness define her existence. She did not sit in bed day in and day out and think about how useless she is. She got up and she sought to make an impact on the world while she could. And she did.
If you take anything away from Claire's story, let it be that your life does not have to be perfect to mean something. You do not have to feel bad for yourself and you do not have to let the suffering you go through stop you from chasing your dreams and passions. Life is not about being happy; it is about experiencing every facet of the human existence.
This was a huge lesson for me and something I remind myself of every day.
I'm going to miss hearing Claire's thoughts every week. I'm disappointed that I never got to attend one of her talks or meet her, which is something I always wanted to do. But most of all, I feel a deep sadness for her family and her friends. As much as I will miss her for selfish reasons, I will also miss the light she shed on this world and the light I'm sure she shed on the lives of everyone around her.
I hope she can finally rest after 21 years of fighting.