“She loved helping people.”
That’s what Chelsea’s Thaut’s sister, Kaytrin Reid, said in remembrance of her sister. Chelsea had always cared about others, and through tragic circumstances, she was able to save a life.
Chelsea was a St. Maries High School alumnus who graduated in 2014. Her family said that she was a light in the lives of many, spreading laughter and joy among her family and friends. Her family said that she was always driven and adventurous. She was also an avid athlete who, during a year where the high school cut the girls soccer team, played anyway – on the boys team.
She tragically lost her life in 2018 due to injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident.
Chelsea was a registered organ donor and was able to save the lives of a few people around the country. Many of those who received a donation from Chelsea were not able to or chose not to reach out to the Thaut family.
“It was Chelsea’s choice,” Tonia Thaut, Chelsea’s mother, said. “Chelsea had it on her license that she was an organ donor and its important to know how much it changes people’s lives as a donor.”
Recently, though, the Thaut family was given a chance to meet one of the people whose life was saved by Chelsea. The search for the recipient of Chelsea’s kidney and pancreas was not easy, as Chelsea’s grandmother, the late Margaret Mourning, had to do some major research to find her.
Ms. Mourning did get lucky though, after reading a letter that was given to the Thaut family via the organization that handled the organ donation, she was able to piece together a few clues in the letter to track down the recipient.
Ms. Mourning was eventually able to find that the letter was written by Teresa Olson, who lives in Butte, Montana, thanks to some luck researching on Facebook and Google.
“I didn’t write my last name but had talked about how my husband and I own our own business in the letter,” Ms. Olson said. “I think that’s how she was able to find me.”
Ms. Olson and her husband, Tony, are entrepreneurs and own their own a brewery, Butte Brewing Co. Ms. Olson just recently celebrated her 50th birthday, one she didn’t think she would be healthy enough to enjoy or even see.
Ms. Olson said that she had been ill most of her life and had been needing a kidney and pancreas transplant for quite some time. She said that thanks to Chelsea, she feels the best she has ever felt.
“I haven’t felt as good as I do now in my entire life,” Ms. Olson said. “I always think I got a bit of my energy from her (Chelsea).”
Mrs. Thaut, said that Ms. Mourning was very determined to find Ms. Olson and that one of the things she wanted the family to do was to share their story about meeting Ms. Olson with the public.
Mrs. Thaut said that Ms. Mourning was a Facebook stalker and was able to hunt Ms. Olson down. She said that the late Ms. Mourning had always wanted the family to share this story with the public.
Ms. Olson said that when she was first in contact with the Thaut family, Ms. Mourning had sent her a link to Chelsea’s Facebook page. She said that it was one of the first times she got to see who the person was that saved her life.
“My husband and I sat there and look through all of her pictures, we felt like we were able to get to know her,” Ms. Olson said. “We cried, she seemed like a very nice young woman – she was too young.”
The two families were able to meet last September when Ms. Olson passed through north Idaho on her way to Seattle. The gathering was a bit awkward at first for both parties, but they were able to warm up and shared stories about Chelsea.
“We talked about Chelsea a lot, and it’s nice to see that Teresa has a second chance at life and she is able to do a lot of things again that happened to be things that Chelsea liked too,” Ms. Reid said. “You can tell they got pretty emotional talking about it too, that our loss was something great for them.”
Mr. Thaut said that it was nice to meet Ms. Olson though it was still difficult to grasp that Chelsea was gone.
“It was nice to meet her,” Mr. Thaut said. “It’s hard because Chelsea is gone – it was weird at first but it was nice and it turned out nice. It was hard but seeing how it changed Teresa’s life – I was happy for her.”
Chelsea’s sister Angela Thaut said that the meeting with Ms. Olson did bring some closure to the situation.
“Meeting Teresa and my grandma talking to her helped, and hearing her story – Chelsea was kind of her last hope,” Ms. A. Thaut said.
Ms. Olson said that the meeting made her feel closer to the Thaut family and she said that she would consider them family of her own.
“I feel like a part of their family,” Ms. Olson said. “I think about them all of the time. I have a part of Chelsea in me and I feel really blessed – I feel that Chelsea was a very special girl and I always say that I’ve got my energy from her. I feel blessed and I really do think that she is a part of me spiritually.”
Mrs. Reid said that Ms. Olson still keeps in touch with the family and will text her from time to time, letting the Thaut’s know how she and her family is doing. She said that Teresa always says how thankful she is for their family.
“She texts me every now and then,” Mrs. Reid said. “She sent me a picture of her back yard and said ‘I’m standing at one of my favorite spots – when I see beauty in this life I always think of all you guys and how grateful I am for you guys.”