The most recent episode of HGTV’s “Christina in the Country,” which premiered on February 9, 2023, took a tragic turn when Christina Hall’s client and friend, Dr. Jessica Waldron, died before renovations on her family’s Tennessee home were completed. Waldron, who had ALS, was Hall’s sister-in-law’s longtime best friend, Cassie Schienle. Hall is now opening up about how emotionally challenging it was filming with Waldron as her condition rapidly progressed.
In early 2021, according to a GoFundMe campaign set up for her, Waldron began exhibiting symptoms of ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that damages nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. By mid-2022, as seen on the show, she could no longer walk and wished the home she shared with her husband and two young children could become more wheelchair-accessible. So, in the new episode, Scheinle and Hall devised a plan to transform the family’s Tennessee home — particularly the kitchen and primary bathroom — and film the process for Hall’s new series, “Christina in the Country.”
Waldron was thrilled about the opportunity to help guide and witness her home’s transformation, but died on November 3, 2022, at age 39, before renovations were completed. According to HGTV, Christina and her crew quickly finished the project so Waldron’s family could return home.
“Watching this disease rapidly progress and taking over Jessica’s body was the scariest thing I’ve ever witnessed,” Hall wrote in an Instagram post on February 9, hours before the episode premiered.
So scary, in fact, that Hall revealed to People magazine how witnessing Waldron’s rapid decline and seeing his struggle to breathe caused the HGTV star to have a panic attack during their last day together.
Christina Hall Says She Hid Her Panic Attack From Jessica Waldron on Final Day With Her
Waldron, a clinical psychologist, clearly expected to be around to enjoy the finished renovations, saying early in the “Christina in the Country” episode that she looked forward to not needing help reaching for items in the kitchen and to having a zero-entry shower in the primary bathroom.
“Having that space work for me is just gonna be a huge gift,” Waldron said.
In Hall’s Instagram post about the special episode, she said Waldron never gave up hope that she would survive and thrive.
“During the process she held onto the hope that there would be a cure (she was trying all kinds of treatments) and she would walk again,” wrote Hall. “I was sensitive to this during the process and also held onto the hope that a miracle would occur…”
But Hall told People magazine that with each visit, she could tell Waldron’s ALS was advancing rapidly, which was “extremely difficult” for her and the crew to witness.
“At each monthly check-in, we saw Jessica’s health continue to decline,” she told the magazine. “The last time I saw Jessica alive, she was struggling to catch her breath as we were talking. I could see how much she was trying to be present and smile, but I also saw the fear and hurt behind her eyes.”
Hall continued, “The last time we were together to shoot a scene I had to pretend to walk away and talk to someone about the project when in reality, I was in another room having a panic attack. I couldn’t catch my breath because I felt so much pain knowing she didn’t have much longer to live. Sadly, that was the last time I saw her.”
Christina Hall Hopes Project Will Help Keep Jessica Waldron’s Memory Alive
Even though Waldron was not able to see her home’s renovations come to fruition, Hall is hoping that the final result will bring comfort to the family and that they’ll always be able to watch the episode to remember what a warrior she was.
“This remodel was her vision for her family and something for the entire crew and I am proud to have done this for them,” Hall wrote in her Instagram post. “Her memory will live on and her kids will be able to look back and see that mom was a fighter and despite what she was dealing with, she always put on a brave face. We hope to raise awareness for this devastating disease.”
In an Instagram post Waldron wrote in November 2021 about her progressing symptoms, she wrote that as she faced losing her mobility, she’d also received “the deepest, most beautiful blessings in my life.”
“Ain’t that always how life goes,” she wrote. “The most beautiful things come out of the darkest times.”
Her family is encouraging viewers interested in learning more or helping others facing ALS to check out Team Gleason, which is dedicated to “empowering people with ALS to live purposeful lives.”
For those who missed the Waldrons’ episode of “Christina in the Country,” it’s available to view any time on Discovery+. HGTV will also re-air it at the following times: February 16 at 7 pm Eastern time, February 19 at 11 am Eastern time, and March 7 at 4 pm Eastern time.