The heartbroken Parents of a nursing student killed in a hit and run by a drunk driver have vowed to complete their daughter’s bucket list with the help of a woman who was transplanted with her heart. Losing a loved one is an experience that doesn’t have a linear process, unlike most situations we face that create emotional responses.
Once we go through those emotions they’re felt and dealt with, and you rarely return to feel them as deeply and internally as you did before. With grief, there’s no set process. Sometimes we feel so deeply lost and upset.
Other times we feel grateful for the time we had with our loved ones. And then in an instant, we can go back to feeling angry and bitter for the fact that they’ve left us here alone to deal with not having them by our side anymore. Grief makes us feel things no other event in life has the same impact or power to do. And because loss is so final, it feels almost cruel that we have to suffer in the aftermath the way we do. Humans are profoundly social creatures.
If you don’t agree, try living alone and not leaving your apartment like some of us are doing during the pandemic for weeks or months. Social connection is necessary for our continued mental health. Those we love are the most crucial pieces of these connections. When they suddenly disappear, we lose a piece of our support system and a piece of our lives. Christina Chesterman never came close to checking off even a handful of items on her bucket list before she died.
She was 21 when an alleged drunk driver struck her and then drove off as she biked home from a long day of studying with fellow nursing students. But shortly after her death last September, her wish to save someone’s life got fulfilled multiple times over. They vowed to complete it by ticking off the goals she had not had a chance to achieve. Volunteers from all over the world have agreed to help, including the woman who received organ donor Ms. Chesterman’s heart.
On some levels, I think Christina knew she was going to have a short life, Ms. Chesterman said. She was always rushing to do everything, and three weeks before she died, she called me out of the blue to tell me how proud of me she was. We had no idea she’d ever written a bucket list. One of the items was to save a life, Chesterman said she still deals with overwhelming grief.
There are still some days I just don’t get out of bed because it’s so unbelievably hard, she said. Meeting with Vieira and others who were aided by Christina has helped her through the pain. Chesterman said she plans to learn more about Doctors Without Borders and other nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations Christina hoped to help once she graduated from College with her nursing degree. I want to see the world the way Christina saw it, she said. That’s what losing her has done to me.
I want to see the good in everybody and live like she did. Christina’s bucket List be in four places at once. Go to Venice, learn to play chess, beat someone at chess, save someone’s life. Own two pieces of property, one with livestock. Manage or own my own business.
Get married, have kids, learn to fly a plane. Go to four out of seven Wonders of the World. Fly first class on a plane, visit the 50 States. Ride in a hot air balloon. Go parachuting, go skydiving, ride a camel.
Travel to all the continents. Be remembered as the Smiley Girl. Break up a fight between two guys over me. Be in homecoming court. Run through a poppy field, tour Niagara Falls.
Go to the Smithsonian, drive Route 66. Though she hasn’t done it through nursing, she’s done it by donating her organs. She was an incredible person and her memory will live on forever. We never imagined she was going to die. Chico State University student Miss Chesterman was cycling home from the library on September 20, 2013, when Hoover plowed into her, carrying her 120ft before fleeing the scene.
He was arrested at his apartment later that evening whilst Ms. Chesterman lay on a life support machine at the nearby Enlo Medical Center. Meanwhile, her parents had received a call from doctors advising them to make the three hour journey to Miss Chesterman’s bedside as quickly as possible.
It was a very long, sad summer drive because we had no idea what we were going to find, said Miss Chesterman, a stay at home mother. We knew it was bad when intensive care unit nurses warned us that she may not look like herself, but we still never imagined she was going to die.
When we saw her, she had blood around her eyes and ears, but at the same time she looked very peaceful, like she was sleeping. It was two days before Ms. Chesterman was stable enough for doctors to run tests to see if she had any brain activity. In that time, her devastated family began to piece together the events that led to her ending up in hospital fighting for her life. She’d been cycling across a bridge when she was hit, said Miss Chesterman.
She was so close to home her apartment block was in sight. A man had driven past and noticed papers strewn across the road. He stopped to investigate and found Christina’s body. He called 911 whilst two homeless men sat with Christina, cradling her and telling her that she was going to be okay and to go to God. It comforts me to know she wasn’t alone.
Medics found no trace of brain activity and Miss Chesterman was pronounced dead on September 24, 2015. Saying my final goodbye was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. She was kept alive artificially via a ventilator for two more days while recipients for her organs were found. For those two days, her hospital room was a revolving door of family and friends coming to say goodbye, said Miss Chesterman. People we’d never met opened their homes to us, offering us food and a place to shower and sleep.
Those kind gestures showed us just how much love there is from strangers. Saying my final goodbye was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I held her one last time and didn’t want to let go. One of Miss Chesterman’s kidneys was given to a friend of the family who was in dire need of a transplant. Then, over the following months, Mr.
And Mrs. Chesterman began to track down the four other strangers whose lives have been saved by their daughter. Her pancreas and kidney were transplanted into a 42 year old diabetic man. Her liver had been split between a nine month old baby, the mother of whom Mr. And Mrs.
Chesterman are still in contact with today, and a 66 year old man who did not speak English but learned how to say thank you and I love you to Miss Chesterman. Finally, her heart went to congestive heart failure patient Susan Vieira, who was put in touch with the Chesterman family after a local news station ran a story on the bucket list they had discovered by piecing together the few details she’d been given about her donor,
like the age, gender and how she died. She worked out that it could be Christina, said Mrs. Chesterman. The transplant network confirmed this for us, and Susan promised to help tick off any items on Christina’s bucket list that she was well enough to do.
Another amazing coincidence is that Susan used to be a nurse at the same hospital that inspired Christina to be a nurse when she’d interned there. There were just so many things that connected them. It was if Christina had handpicked Susan. We’ll complete everything on our bucket list as a family over our lifetime. Among the other items on Ms.
Chesterman’s list were go skydiving, visit every continent, drive Route 66, and most poignantly, be remembered as the Smiley girl. When Mrs. Chesterman posted the list of Facebook shortly after finding it, volunteers from all over the world came forward to offer their help. One woman promised to drive Route 66 with Ms. Chesterman’s photograph in the passenger seat, whilst another went skydiving.
As her story was shared across the globe, more and more people came forward, posting photographs of them posing with Ms. Chesterman’s picture at various landmarks, helping her to fulfill her dream of traveling the world. Mr. And Mrs. Chesterman rode a hot air balloon, flew a plane and visited Niagara Falls for their late daughter.
They ticked off one of the more unusual items running through a poppy field to recreate a scene from The Wizard of Oz handinhand with Ms. Vieira. Some things on Christina’s list we can’t do for her, like break up a fight between two guys over her, she said. Others we’ve already done like get married and have kids, but the rest we’ll do as a family over our lifetime. Alongside completing her bucket list, they’re also honoring their daughter’s memory by building the Christina Chesterman Medical Clinic in Nigeria.
They’ve also set up a Memorial Foundation that grants $5000 scholarships every year to the California State University nursing student most like Christina. To date, they’ve raised enough to keep the foundation running for the next 30 years.
Hoover, of Ohio is currently a year into the seven year sentence he was handed at Butte County Superior Court after entering a no contest plea to driving under the influence and felony hit and run. In a letter ran out in court to Hoover, Mrs. Chesterman said, I want to know if you’re sorry.