Inspirational Speaker Claire Wineland Dies One Week After Lung Transplant

Story at-a-glance -

  • Claire Wineland, inspirational speaker and YouTube sensation, founded the Claire’s Place Foundation at age of 13, to help families with children who have cystic fibrosis (CF)
  • Wineland, who was diagnosed with CF at birth, died September 2, 2018, from a massive stroke following an otherwise successful lung transplant
  • Wineland received the 2016 World of Children Youth Award for her Foundation’s support of children with CF and their families
  • Wineland’s CF University is an online resource for children where they can learn more about their disease
  • While filled with chronic illness, Wineland’s life was a testament to how to live life well, with purpose and gratitude

By Dr. Mercola

Chances are, you’ve heard of Claire Wineland. An incredible inspirational speaker and YouTube sensation, Wineland founded the Claire’s Place Foundation1 at the tender age of 13, to help families with children who, like herself, struggle with cystic fibrosis (CF) — a progressive and terminal genetic disease that causes an overproduction and buildup of thick, sticky mucus in the lungs and other organs.

The disease requires daily breathing treatment for up to five hours a day, and children with cystic fibrosis typically end up spending a lot of time in the hospital due to respiratory distress and chronic infections. Wineland is said to have spent about a quarter of her short life in the hospital.

Wineland Dies After Lung Transplant

She died September 2, 2018, from a massive stroke following an otherwise successful lung transplant.2 She was 21. As you can see in the video, she was an extraordinarily beautiful young woman who was exceptionally articulate and full of love and gratitude.

In the video above, taped about a week before her surgery and untimely death, Wineland gives thanks to the thousands of people who donated nearly $268,000 to her Go Fund Me campaign to raise the funds needed for the surgery that she and her family otherwise could not afford.3

She had initially refused the idea of a double lung transplant, but earlier this year had a change of heart, as her health took a nose dive, and she felt she still had more to contribute to the world.

August 26, she was notified that her surgery was a go. The transplant surgery took nine hours, and went well. Alas, shortly afterward, she suffered a massive stroke on the right side of her brain. She was placed in a medically induced coma, from which she never emerged. The silver lining of this story is that at least she didn’t have to suffer and passed away peacefully.

Living Life With Purpose

Two years ago, Wineland received the 2016 World of Children Youth Award4 for her foundation’s support of children with CF and their families.

She knew, from firsthand experience, how challenging it can be for parents when a child is hospitalized for extended periods, and her foundation’s family support program offers not only support and information about treatment and care options, but also gives out extended hospital stay grants to help families pay for basic necessities and hotel stays.

At the age of 19, Wineland also launched CF University, an online resource for children where they can learn more about their disease:

“Growing up I always wished there was a place I could go to learn how to deal with everything that came with having CF. How can I make shots hurt less? How can I make my treatments more fun? How do I deal with mean nurses or confusing doctors?

For 15 years I have gathered tricks, tips and laughter to work with a situation that is completely out of my control. And so the CF University was born … The CF University will have everything from craft ideas when you are stuck in the hospital, tips on traveling with an illness, decoding ‘doctor talk,’ connecting CF families with each other, with support and with resources …

It is my mission to help everyone with Cystic Fibrosis and the families and loved ones in their lives feel empowered about life no matter what life chooses to throw at you next.”

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Don’t Wait to Serve

Last year, Wineland gave a TEDx lecture at Cardiff by the Sea, in which she shares her core message — prioritize fulfillment and living your purpose, no matter what is going on in your life. If you think you have troubles in your life you can look at Wineland. It can help put things into perspective, and hopefully will elevate your appreciation of life no matter what your circumstances.

Indeed, Wineland’s life, while filled with chronic illness and all that it entails, was a testament to how to live life well. She inspired people to “love what is,”5 to love every breath; to not waste life and to make a life that matters.

“You can have a painful life. You can suffer; you can experience what it’s like to feel like a human being, all those messy and gross emotions, and yet you can make a life for yourself that you’re very, very proud of,” she says. “You can suffer and be OK. You can suffer and still make something.

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, out of the embarrassing moments and the painful moments. It’s what you make and what you give from that place …

It’s not about just being happy … Life is a rollercoaster of crazy emotions … [but] it’s not about emotions. It’s not about how you feel second to second, it’s about what you’re making of your life, and whether you can find a deep pride in who you are, and what you’re giving.

Because that’s so much more impactful, so much deeper than whether you’re happy or content or joyful. It’s OK to feel pain … there’s nothing wrong with you …

I don’t care that I’m sick at all, genuinely … because that has not determined the quality of my life. I’m not trying to fix myself. My suffering has given me so much, and I have been able to make something and give something to people from it.”

Love Every Breath

Wineland’s life was nothing if not impactful. Now, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Nicholas Reed is making a film about her life. All proceeds from the still untitled film, which is scheduled to be completed in November, will go to Claire’s Place Foundation.

According to The Wrap,6 Reed worked with Wineland for the last 18 months of her life. In a statement, Reed said:7

“When I met Claire, I was totally blown away. All my partners instantly said ‘she is the most amazing young person we have ever met, we have to do a film on her.’ And wow, with each meeting we were humbled more and more by her story.

We are honored to have worked with Claire and with the blessing of her family on this official documentary that encapsulates the true nature of Claire and her courageous battle to help dignify people who are sick.”

You can support Wineland’s legacy by buying tickets to or renting the documentary when it comes out, or you can make a donation directly to Claire’s Place Foundation. Last but certainly not least, you can honor her gift by living your own life with gratitude and purpose.  

Optimism and having a sense of purpose in life has actually been scientifically shown to have direct benefits on health and is associated with increased life expectancy. Wineland herself was perhaps a testament to this, as she never expected to make it past her teens.

Live Your Life’s Purpose

“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” ~ Robert Bryne

“He who has a Why to live can bear with almost any How.” ~ Nietzsche

As explained by Wineland, your purpose is really all about what you believe you can give; how you can make a difference. So often, people get stuck in the limiting mentality of “I’m just one person, how could I possibly make a difference?”

Well, you can. You might not be able to help everyone, but you can help some. What are you enthusiastic about? What revs your internal engine? What comes really naturally to you? What do you enjoy doing most? Exploring your answers to these questions can help you discover your purpose, if you haven’t found it yet.

In the video above, Adam Leipzig also shares how to find your life purpose by answering the following five questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What do I do naturally, effortlessly?
  3. Who do I do it for?
  4. What do others want and need?
  5. How do others change as a result of my being me and doing what I do best?

Live With an Attitude of Gratitude

Related to this is gratitude. Aside from augmenting happiness and life satisfaction, gratitude actually produces measurable effects on a number of bodily systems, including beneficial effects on mood and pleasure-related neurotransmitters, reproductive and social bonding hormones, cognition, blood pressure and more.

Importantly, it lowers the stress hormone cortisol and inflammatory cytokines, which are often elevated if you have chronic disease. Health benefits associated with gratitude include:8,9,10,11

A greater sense of pleasure, as gratitude stimulates your hypothalamus (a brain area involved in the regulation of stress) and your ventral tegmental area (part of your brain’s “reward circuitry,” an area that produces pleasurable feelings)12

Improved sleep13 (especially if your mind has a tendency to go into overdrive with negative thoughts and worries at bedtime)

A higher likelihood of engaging in other healthy activities and self-care such as exercise

Higher relationship satisfaction

Improved work performance (in one study, managers who expressed gratitude saw a 50 percent increase in the employees’ performance)

Reduced stress14 and emotional distress, in part by improving emotional resiliency

Enhanced well-being15 and improved mental health by triggering the release of antidepressant and mood-regulating chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and oxytocin, while inhibiting cortisol

Improved heart health,16 reducing the likelihood of sudden death in patients with congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease

Reduced inflammation and pain

Improved immune function17