Heart recipient makes unusual promise to donor's family

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college student's life was cut short, but her organs saved others, including one woman who has made an unusual promise to her family.

Chico State nursing student Kristina Chesterman was riding her bike home after a long day of studying when she was hit by an alleged drunk driver. She was left lying helpless on Nord Avenue.

Through vigils and prayers there was a sliver of hope that she'd be okay. But two days later, on Sept. 24, their worst fears were realized.

Doctors declared that Chesterman was brain dead.

In life, her goal was to help others. In death, it was no different.

Chesterman was an organ donor. Two babies received parts of her liver. A family friend got a kidney. Just 250 miles south, 64-year-old Susan Vieira was in congestive heart failure. She'd been on the transplant list since July.

"I never dreamed in my life of how they would remediate my heart," she said.

That phone call, just three days after Kristina's death, was from the doctors at Stanford University. They had a heart. It was a match.

Vieira left asking, "How did this happen to me?"

Later that night, with hearts in Chico still broken, Chesterman's heart would beat again and Vieira had a second chance at life.

"It's kind of overwhelming, that part of it," Vieira said.

As soon as she was well, she set out on a journey to find her donor's family.

She found them on Facebook and got in touch with Chesterman's mother Sandra.

"The heart is who you are," Sandra said. "I just think that I just wanted to feel Kristina again. To hear Kristina's heart beat again and I did."

Vieira and Chesterman met for the first time on Sunday.

Vieira made a promise to the Chesterman family that as long as she's physically able, she will fulfill the goals and dreams that Kristina couldn' fly a plane, to travel extensively, to ride a camel.

"It's taken me so long to recover that I don't have full impact of the heart yet," Vieira said. "Kristina's waiting there to advise me.

And thanks to Kristina's gift of life, there is no rush.

"I think Kristina's heart was meant to go to Susan," Chesterman said.

"I'm hoping this helps you get through the grief process too. I'm really hoping that for you," Vieira said.