Before she died, Kristina Chesterman was never able to check off a handful of items on her bucket list. At the age of 21, an alleged drunk driver hit her, and then drove off as she biked her way home along with her fellow nursing classmates.
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Shortly after her death, one of the items on her bucket list was fulfilled. She wanted to be an organ donor and save the lives of people. So, when she died last September, her organs were donated to five people.
Now, Kristina’s family are doing their best to fulfill as many items on her list. Among those that they checked off were ride in a hot-air balloon, run through a poppy field, go skydiving, explore the Niagara falls, and ride a camel.
Sandra Chesterman, Kristina’s mother said, “Some of the things we couldn’t do, like fall in love. Kristina wanted to get married and have children. But run through a poppy field? We figured we would do what we could. Somebody already went parachuting and they took her picture with her when she went”.
She also added that her daughter wanted to learn how to fly a plane. So, over the weekend, her parents will take Kristina’s ashes with them as they take flight lessons.
It was when Sandra cleaned her daughter’s room after she passed away, when they found out about her bucket list. She said she saw the list tucked inside a makeup bag.
She recalled, “I can’t explain how I felt when I found that. And one of the things on the bucket list was ‘save a life’ and that struck us because she ended up saving five, including the help she’ll provide with tissue and bone donation that will come later. She also said she wanted to be remembered as ‘the smiley girl’. And she was. She was always smiling. The glass was always half full with her. She saw the good in everything”.
In order to fulfill her wish list, Kristina’s friends extended their helping hand. And their support has greatly helped ease the grieving process of her family.
Kristina’s liver was donated to two people, a 9-month old baby and a 55-year-old man. One of her kidneys went to a family friend, and the other one went to an unknown man.
Kristina’s heart, the 5th organ, was donated to 64-year-old Susan Veira, who reached out to the family through a Facebook page dedicated to Kristina.
“Susan reached out at a time when I needed it the most. You never get over the loss of losing a child, and I was probably at about my lowest point when I hear from Susan, and that has helped me deal with it,” Sandra said.
Veira also explained, saying, “I thought it would help in the healing process. I thought it would put some closure on Snadra’s grief”.
When Susan and Sandra first met, she remembered, “When I walked away from the visit, I was 99.9 percent sure that this is the heart. Instantly I felt a connection. I felt comforted right away. I am 100 percent [sure] she has Kristina’s heart.”
Susan said she wants to travel internationally to see the places that Kristina would have wanted to visit. She also wants to stay in touch with her family.
The Chestermans hope that Kristina’s story will help raise awareness about organ donation. This way, people will know “how many lives one person can change just by signing a piece of paper saying, ‘yes, I” be a donor'”.
They also hope that her story will make people mindful about the devastating effects of drunk driving. According to reports, the suspect for her death, Riley Dean Hoover, is now facing charges. He is currently serving a seven-year sentence at the Avernal State Prison in Kings County.
Since her death, there are lots of things that have been happening in memory of Kristina. These include a quarterly blood drive with the American Red Cross and Cal Water, bowling nights that aim to raise money for the Kristina Chesterman Memorial Clinic, a ground-breaking ceremony on the Kristina Chesterman Memorial Clinic in Africa, and an annual take over event in Chico to honor her.
Sandra said she still deals with grief sometimes, “There are still some days I just don’t get out of bed because it’s so unbelievably hard”. She also shared that meeting with the organ recipients has greatly help her cope with pain.
Here is Kristina’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 sky diving
- 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