The double-lung transplant surgery, by all measures, appeared to be a great success. Claire Wineland, who has lived an extraordinary life with cystic fibrosis, needed it to be if she hoped to live much longer.
But while recovering in the ICU Monday night, Claire had a “massive stroke,” according to an update posted late Tuesday by her mom on Claire’s Facebook page and on Instagram.
“She had a blood clot that cut off blood flow to the right side of her brain and had to undergo emergency brain surgery to relieve the pressure building and save her life,” Melissa Nordquist Yeager wrote.
Her daughter made it through a decompressive craniectomy, a surgical procedure to remove a portion of the skull and alleviate pressure, her mom said, but is still in critical condition.
Claire is currently in a medically-induced coma and has paralysis on the left side of her body — although her mom said that may change. She said it will take “at least 4 to 7 days” before the brain’s trauma will settle so doctors can understand the extent of the stroke’s damage.
Yeager sent love and gratitude to the donor’s family for giving her daughter this chance at a new life, and she thanked Claire’s followers for all their well-wishes and prayers.
“Now,” she said, “we need even more prayers!”
A take on what happened
Nobody from Claire’s medical team at the Center for Transplantation at UC San Diego Health was available to comment before publication.
Though CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a practicing neurosurgeon, has not been involved in Claire’s case, he looked over Yeager’s full post. Based on what he read, he offered his take on what this likely means and what, he believes, happened to Claire.
At some point, he said, either while blood was flowing through Claire’s new lungs or after it had returned to her heart, a clot apparently developed. It then traveled and blocked the blood flow to the right side of her brain.
The fact that it was the right side possibly offers some good news, he said.
That side of the brain controls movement on the left side of the body, Gupta said, but “thankfully is not typically responsible for speech. So somebody who’s had a right-sided stroke can still typically understand and express themselves.”
Gupta also noted Claire’s age, 21, and the immediacy with which she seemed to have the craniectomy “are very favorable signs for her.”
“It will take several days to get an idea of how she’s going to do in the long run,” he added. “But it sounds like they did all the right things and hopefully she’ll do well.”
‘A galaxy of people pulling for her’
Claire has overcome health obstacles throughout her lifetime and gone on to soar. She wasn’t expected to survive when she emerged from a medically induced coma at 13. She went on to start a foundation, rivet online audiences with her spirited videos and become a sought-after speaker.
“We are praying and letting her rest, hoping that she experiences yet another miracle,” her mother said.
Yeager isn’t alone, and she knows Claire isn’t either. A steady flow of messages on social media are a reminder of this.
“You will wake, you will walk, you will talk, you will breathe. All of my vibes are coming your way girl,” one follower wrote. “You don’t just move mountains you smash through them.”
“Been following her inspirational journey and infectious spirit for a few years. She is surrounded in the love and prayers of every single person she’s touched in her life,” said another. “That’s a galaxy of people pulling for her. She’ll get through this like she’s gotten thru every setback that’s been thrown her way — with grace, love, and more positivity than seems imaginable.”
“We all know how strong you are, even though none of us have met you,” added a third. “We all love and care like [you’re] part of our own family.”