Bambi Chugg Thomas Epilogue

Posted in Personal Stories by michellebruno on October 6, 2009
Tags: , , ,

After seven years, Terrie Chugg still cries when she talks about her daughter Bambi Chugg Thomas. They are tears of sorrow for the loss of a daughter, a wife and a mother.  A video of Bambi on the Donate Life Utah home page tells the story of a vibrant young woman, 24 years old, and about to have her first child when illness strikes and her eight-month wait for a new heart begins.

Bambi was born and raised in Roy, Utah, Terrie says. She was a 1997 graduate of Roy High School and the following year, she competed in the Miss Utah Pageant as “Miss Roy.” She was a spokes model for Standard Optical and no stranger to the camera her mom says. She married her husband Danny when they both graduated from Weber State University and became pregnant a short time later with daughter Ellie who was born on Christmas Eve the following year.

Like so many, Bambi’s story has a tragic ending.  Three weeks after Ellie arrived, Bambi’s doctors told her she needed a heart transplant due to complications from the pregnancy. Despite her optimism and the artificial heart that kept her alive while she waited, the new heart never arrived and, ironically, Bambi herself became an organ donor.

The idea of the Bambi Chugg Thomas Healing Hearts Foundation came from Bambi, Terrie says. She used the foundation as a springboard to spread the word about the desperate need for organ donors. Even in her weakened condition, Bambi visited schools to tell the story of organ donation before she lost her own fight. The Standard Examiner newspaper asked to do a story about Bambi and were so smitten with her energy, they also produced the video about her that appears on the Donate Life Utah site.

Despite her family’s loss, Bambi’s legacy lives on. Besides the foundation, established in February of 2002, the video has been translated into French and German and continues to travel the world online via YouTube. Terrie believes that Bambi’s story is a poignant one. “Hers is the face of organ transplant. We were lucky because she was at the right place at the right time [to offer her own message] and had people that loved her,” Terrie says.

Bambi’s family helps to keep her memory alive through the foundation. They helped to build a monument to honor organ donors at Library Square in downtown Salt Lake City. They have supported people waiting for transplants with living expenses and paid for the funeral expenses of a little boy whose father was self-employed and couldn’t afford it.  Each year at Christmas, they visit the Intermountain Medical Center and deliver baskets to families waiting for organ donations.

Terrie Chugg thinks about what Bambi would want people to know if she were here today. “Bambi herself said, ‘we’ve all carved our names in a tree, we’ve all left our mark in sand. I’m wondering what kind of mark I’ll leave.” Terrie recalls. “Being a donor is leaving your mark,” she adds.

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