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Blog: Stories and Insight

Bridget Nesko’s Story: A Heart for Healthcare and a Legacy that Lives On

Bridget-and-Kevin-Cherry-BlossomBridget Nesko was the kind of nurse everyone hopes to have on their healthcare team: She would visit the critical care unit she worked at even when her shift was over. She was precise and a good communicator, often called upon to lead educational classes and seminars on everything from CPR and life-saving techniques to the repercussions of the Affordable Care Act. Her walls at home were filled with gifts, often handmade, from patients. 

“She had a heart for healthcare,” says her husband, Kevin. “She was a nurse to the core – loving and caring, and she understood the importance of family. She did so much for people, but she was humble – she never wanted credit for anything.”  

Bridget’s nursing experience, built through her education at George Mason University and a career of various nursing roles, prepared her to seek out the best care when her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The Philadelphia native relocated from her home in Virginia with Kevin and her son Robert to Clayton, N.J. to care for her mother.  

“She contacted Samaritan, and that’s where the love affair began,” laughs Kevin. Bridget was impressed with the level of care her mother received from Samaritan, with healthcare team members visiting nearly every day, communicating openly with the family while being fiercely protective of their patient, Bridget’s mom.  

When her mother passed away peacefully, Bridget contacted Samaritan immediately, wanting to volunteer and serve other patients and families in need. But Kevin said she was shocked – and impressed – when Samaritan volunteer coordinators said no. 

“They rightly told her, ‘No, you need time to heal from the loss of your mom,’” Kevin remembers. “They urged her to take a year to heal. She knew they were right.” 

Still, Bridget threw herself into other community volunteering – she started a local community newspaper and hosted a live monthly radio program on 92.1 FM WVLT in Vineland, where she often provided print space and airtime to healthcare providers, including Samaritan, to share information on health-related topics.  

The Ravages of Ovarian Cancer 

As Bridget returned to nursing and continued her community work, symptoms of an illness started to appear. Although Bridget had undergone a hysterectomy years earlier, the warning signs of Stage 3 ovarian cancer had not been caught. She underwent 21 chemotherapy treatments in just 17 months, but when Bridget’s organs started to fail, doctors advised her to think about comfort care instead of curative treatment.  

“She said, ‘It’s time to go home and be with family,’” Kevin says. “She told me, ‘Kevin, call Samaritan.’” Kevin says he wished Bridget would have allowed him to call Samaritan earlier in the process, as he knew they offer much more than end-of-life care – while Bridget knew the importance of calling a palliative and hospice care provider as early as possible with her mother, she held herself to a harder standard, wanting to fight as long as possible.  

When Kevin voiced his concerns about hospice care to the Samaritan team, nurses firmly but kindly reminded Kevin of the big picture, that they were there to help him take care of Bridget. 

“I wanted to hug them right then and there, because they were so right,” he says. “They were so respectful and kind to me, but more importantly to Bridget.” 

Ultimately, Bridget passed as peacefully as possible in Kevin’s arms after a brutal two-year battle against ovarian cancer. She was 55 years old. 

Keeping Bridget’s Passion for Care Alive 

In the weeks before she passed, Bridget and Kevin had discussed what they might like to do once she was gone.  

“She said, ‘If you do anything, make sure you give to Samaritan’ – she was a nurse to the core,” says Kevin. “If Bridget had her way, it would be a quiet blank check going to nurses, but it’s my job to make sure her name and legacy is preserved.”  

Kevin established the Bridget Nesko Memorial Scholarship Foundation and the Bridget Nesko Ovarian Cancer Project. The Foundation provides financial awards and scholarships to dependents of families impacted by ovarian cancer and to other charitable, service and education-oriented organizations serving the ovarian cancer community. The Nesko Project (part of the Foundation) is active worldwide in grassroots advocacy to increase awareness among women, their families, and physicians about the signs, symptoms, and early detection and treatment options for victims of ovarian cancer. 

The Foundation generously entered into a 10-year agreement with Samaritan to recognize and honor members of its hardworking and compassionate clinical staff with a $500 honorarium and “Excellence in Service” Award. Each year, a Samaritan clinical team member who demonstrates outstanding care, compassion, and commitment to serving patients will be honored with the honorarium and award.  

“The precious care Samaritan gave to my wife at the end of her life meant everything to me,” Kevin says. “Samaritan is a foundation for the families left behind, and we are proud to partner with them.”  

For more information on Bridget’s story and the initiatives her family and friends champion in her memory, visit