Heart Recipient Honors 21-Year-Old Donor

PHOTO: Kristina Chesterman was 21 years old when she was struck and killed by an allegedly drunk driver while riding her bike.
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As Sandra Chesterman cleaned out her recently killed daughter Kristina’s college apartment last fall, she noticed a makeup bag stuffed with pieces of paper.

In it, she found one tattered note that had been folded and re-folded many times. It was Kristina Chesterman's bucket list.

“Kristina had said something to my husband at one time about something that was on her bucket list, but he didn’t realize she had something written down,” Sandra Chesterman said. “It was so like her because she was so organized. She had her whole life planned out. ... It was almost like she knew her life was going to be short. She felt like she had so much to do.”

Kristina Chesterman, a 21-year-old nursing student at Chico State University, was hit by an allegedly drunk driver in September while she was riding her bike home from studying.

She was declared brain dead a few days later -- but, despite her premature death, items will continue to get checked off the bucket list.

Kristina Chesterman's organs went on to save several lives, including that of Susan Vieira, the 64-year-old retired nurse in Campbell, Calif., who received her heart.

Because organ donors and recipients are anonymous to each other for at least the first six months, Vieira didn’t know who her donor was.

Then, one day, a friend called her and told her to look at the San Jose Mercury News. There was an article about Kristina Chesterman, her bucket list, and how her mother hoped to meet the woman who received her heart.

“She read me Kristina’s bucket list,” Vieira said. “It was as if I was getting a CV of my life. There were so many points that I had already accomplished on that bucket list. It was uncanny.”

For instance, Vieira had already ridden a camel and learned to fly a plane, she said.

Sandra Chesterman and Vieira connected on social media that day and agreed to meet in person soon after. Hugging Vieira was especially important to Sandra Chesterman because she could feel her daughter’s heartbeat.

“It just felt so good to be close to Kristina’s heart,” she said, adding that Vieira has offered to let her use a stethoscope next week to listen to it.

“It was almost as if Kristina hand-picked Susan," Chesterman said. "The heart is who you are, and I think Susan is the perfect person to get this.”

Now, Vieira wants to honor Kristina Chesterman by ticking off the rest of her bucket list. She’ll need to visit all of the continents and sky dive, to name a few.

“I’d like to think all the things I continue to accomplish in my life, I’m taking Kristina with me,” she said. “Together, we will finish her bucket list.”

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