"Heather was 21 years old," said Jody Miller, Heather's mother. "A senior nursing student at WVU. Six weeks away from graduation."
The oldest of four, Heather Nicole Miller was home in Wheeling, during her rotations as a nursing student at WVU.
"She was one of those people everybody wanted to be around," Jody said. "She lit up the room, had the sense of humor but a serious side and a sensitive side."
Sending out graduation invitations was top's on her to-do list, but she wanted to go out with a friend, before her work week began.
"It was March 25, 2008, it was actually Easter Monday." The doorbell rang at 12:45 a.m. "And I can remember going to the door and there were two deputy sheriffs on my front porch."
They told Jody and her husband there had been a crash and they needed to go to the hospital right away. The Millers later learned Heather had been in an accident with a male driver who suffered minor injuries and left the scene. They also learned that police believed alcohol was a factor.
"We were kind of angry at the time, you had all that to deal with," Jody said.
Heather suffered major head trauma and was in a coma. She held on for a week, but on the seventh day, everything crashed.
"Her temperature spiked, they came and got us out of the waiting room, it was just it."
A criminal trial followed her death, and the Millers had an advocate from Mothers Against Drunk Driving with them in the courtroom.
"I was under the impression MADD was so big, that the courtroom was going to be filled with people from MADD, you know, I had all these expectations and none of them really happened. And I think that's when my passion started," Jody said. "Because there's nothing in the northern panhandle."
Actually, there's not an organized chapter anywhere in West Virginia, which is why Jody started a chapter in Wheeling. Margie Sadler is our state's MADD representative, based in Charleston, and this is what she is looking for: "MADD needs at least one volunteer to be a contact person in each of our 55 counties in West Virginia to bring awareness of MADD's mission. MADD does not limit volunteers to being a mother. You only have to have a heart and passion to get involved and make a difference in your local community and West Virginia."
Jody also joined the Wheeling Police Department, and works DUI checkpoints, where she's able to hand out brochures and pins with Heather's picture.
"You think 21 years, she did so much, really. Probably more than most people do in a lifetime. And when you hear her story, a lot of people would think that's the end. But it really wasn't the end, it's really the beginning."
Heather was an organ donor, and doctors were able to use her kidneys, liver and heart. Jody and her family started a golf tournament in Heather's name and a scholarship awarded to a nursing student from Wheeling Park High School, the school Heather attended.
For more information on how to get involved with MADD, or to volunteer to be a local contact person, contact Margie Sadler at:
P.O. Box 244
Scott Depot, WV 25560