Last May, Ethan an I went to a Wine Tasting Event in Boonville, California, a small community in Mendocino County, located about 30 miles from the Pacific Ocean. We have some friends who started up a winery in Boonville a few years ago. After the event, we all went back to their home for more wine and dinner.
As I pulled up to the drive way, I noticed a young man standing in the front lawn...coughing. This was not a "I have a cold type cough." This was a deep, painful, and violent cough. My first thought was "He coughs like me." But a lot of people have coughs for a lot of reasons, so I did not think much of it.
Later in the evening, as we were eating dinner, I noticed this young man with the cough also had clubbed fingers. Again, clubbing can occur with other diseases, but this just struck me as more than a coincidence. While I really wanted to ask this person about his health, I just found it too personal to approach a complete stranger on the subject. I left the party wondering if I just met someone with CF in a totally random, non-CF related environment.
Then, on New Years Eve, as I was leaving the gym, in walked this same person. The guy with the cough who I met in Boonville. Here he was, a member of my small little gym. I was beginning to feel like our meeting was meant to be. Still not feeling comfortable saying anything directly to him, I decided to do a little investigating. Long story and not wanting to sound like a stalker, I was able to find this person and his girlfriend on facebook.
I sent an e-mail to the girlfriend telling her who I was, that I have CF, and I was just wondering if her boyfriend had CF too. She wrote me back confirming what I already knew in my heart to be true: Yes, he has CF. However, he really doesn't speak openly about CF and I was under the impression he really was not interested in meeting me. The girlfriend sounded interested in speaking with me and having someone in her life who understands CF. As of yet, however, we have not met.
This morning, I learned that Joe Sinnaeve, the young man I met in Boonville, California with a horrible cough has passed away. I don't know the specifics, but I do know he had CF and was only 19 years old.
The news of his death is shocking to say the least. For weeks now I have been thinking about how this person came into my life. It is not everyday you just randomly meet someone with CF. I felt a connection, like we met for a reason, a purpose. I was disappointed he didn't want to meet me, but I tried not to take it personal. I thought between me and the girlfriend we could ease him into meeting with me and being more open about CF. And now he is gone. Really, a stranger to me. Yes, I can't believe just like that he is gone...