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Life after death: Northstate tragedy turned miracle

By Tyler May, tmay@krcrtv.com
Published On: Mar 25 2014 09:03:01 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 25 2014 09:27:08 PM CDT
LIVERMORE, Calif. -

Chico State nursing student Kristina Chesterman gave a Bay Area woman a second chance at life.

"21 is too young to lose your life because of someone else's stupid mistake," said Emily Chesterman, Kristina's sister

"We’re going to be dealing with the loss of Kristina the rest of our lives and there's nothing that can change that now," said Aaron Chesterman, Kristina’s brother.

“She was everybody's angel here on earth," said Deanna Burke, Kristina’s aunt

On Sept. 22, 2013, the City of Trees became a city of tears.

Chesterman was riding her bike home after a long day of studying. She was hit by an alleged drunk driver and was left lying helpless on Nord Avenue.

“We got a call late Sunday night down in Livermore, and it's the call no parent ever wants to get,” said David Chesterman, Kristina’s father.

Through vigils and prayers there was always a sliver of hope she'd be OK. Two days later on Sept. 24, the families worst fears were realized; doctors declared Kristina Chesterman brain dead.

In life Chesterman’s goal was to help others. In death, it was no different.

Chesterman was an organ donor. Two babies received parts of her liver, and a family friend got a kidney.

“Then I got the call on September 25th,” said Susan Vieira.

250 miles to the south, 64-year-old Vieira was in congestive heart failure. She’d been on the transplant list since July.

“I never dreamed in my life, how they would remedy my heart,” Vieira said.

That phone call just three days after Kristina’s death was from doctors at Stanford University. They had a heart, and it was a match.

“How did this happen to me?” Vieira asked.

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

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

As soon as she was well, Vieira set out on a journey to find the Chestermans. She found them on Facebook and got in touch with Kristina’s mother, Sandra Chesterman.

“The heart is who you are,” said Sandra Chesterman. "I just wanted to feel Kristina again. To hear her heart beat again and I did."

Vieira and Chesterman met for the first time on Sunday.

“I felt an instant connection,” Chesterman said. “I felt that I've known her for a long time. I felt comfortable right away. Even on the phone talking to her, I felt a connection.”

Vieira has made a promise to the Chesterman family. That as long as she's physically able - she will fulfill the goals and dreams Kristina couldn't.

“She wanted to fly a plane, she wanted to travel extensively, and she wanted to ride a camel,” Chesterman said.

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

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

The man who allegedly hit Kristina Chesterman and fled the scene is 19-year-old Riley Hoover. Police said his blood alcohol content was .30.  He is currently awaiting trial, and if convicted could spend 14 years in state prison.

The Chesterman's are planning to build a health center in Nigeria.  You can join the cause at kristinachesterman.org or on their Facebook page.