YouTube celebrity Claire Wineland dies at age 21 after surgery complications

Despite “Herculean efforts” to save her, 21-year-old YouTube sensation Claire Wineland died one week after undergoing double lung transplant surgery meant to treat her cystic fibrosis.

Peaceful passing

With parents Melissa Yeager and John Wineland by her side, Claire passed away at approximately 6 p.m. Sunday evening.

Laura McHolm, chairman of the nonprofit Claire’s Place Foundation, released a heartfelt and emotional public statement describing how Wineland’s parents were at their daughter’s side until the end. “They saw her into this world for her first breath and were with her for her last,” McHolm said. “Medical staff said it was the most peaceful passing they had ever witnessed.”

Wineland had just been approved for a complicated double lung transplant last month — a procedure she initially told her parents she would not undergo. However, the saucy social media star reconsidered that difficult decision after her health worsened earlier this year and made it physically impossible for her to enjoy day-to-day living.

Wineland was diagnosed at birth with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease with symptoms that include chronic infections which make it difficult for patients to breathe. The typical life expectancy for the approximately 30,000 Americans suffering from the disease is just 37-years-old.

To be approved for the lung transplant, Wineland would have to be considered “sick enough to need the double lung transplant, yet strong enough to withstand the surgery and recovery.” Considering the odds, Wineland was overjoyed when she learned that she was approved for the procedure.

“’It’s a GO!!!” she announced on Twitter the morning of her surgery. “See y’all on [the] other side.”

With over a quarter-million subscribers to her YouTube channel, Wineland had thousands of people rooting for her.

Turn for the worse

However, after coming out of the surgery, on Aug. 26 Wineland suffered a stroke from which she would never recover. Precipitated by a blood clot that cut off circulation to the right side of her brain, the stroke forced doctors to place the young woman into a medically-induced coma while they formulated a strategy to bring her back.

Data from the United Network for Organ Sharing indicates that the complications Wineland suffered were extremely rare. Just 3 percent of patients who undergo a lung transplant end up suffering a stroke from the time their surgery is completed until they are discharged.

After a week of heroic and aggressive treatment, Wineland’s loved ones had to contend with the sobering reality that she would not recover. On Sunday, following the advice of medical experts, she was taken off life support.

Wineland’s parents take comfort in knowing that their daughter’s organs will benefit others. “Her right kidney was transplanted to a 44-year-old woman in San Diego, and her left kidney was transplanted to a 55-year-old male in Northern California,” Yeager said.

“They had been on the receiving end of that call just one short week ago,” McHolm added: “Claire’s remarkable family were so happy for the other families that were now getting the calls that the organ they had long been waiting for was now available for transplant.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) offered his condolences in a Monday evening tweet, sharing photos memorializing his meeting with the social media celebrity. The senator called Wineland an “inspiration” who “brought joy to many.”

Besides taking comfort in the lives that her daughter will save by passing, Wineland’s mother remembers a conversation she shared with Claire regarding her mortality. “After you die,” Wineland told her mother, “you are closer to everyone you love… because you are part of everything.”

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Those words will stay with Yeager forever, and she is certain that her baby will always be near her.

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