Latter-day Saint Life

President Nelson Makes Surprise Visit to Latter-day Saint Teen with Cancer


Thanks to Third Hour for making us aware of this story.

In six years, 18-year-old Ashtyn Poulsen has received three bone marrow transplants. After her first diagnosis of acute undifferentiated leukemia on January 30, 2013—when Ashtyn was 12 years old—she received her first bone marrow transplant in June 2013. Three years later, when Ashtyn was 15, she relapsed and was later put on life support when a bacterial blood infection caused her to become septic. After months of recovery, Ashtyn received her second bone marrow transplant on March 8, 2017. Less than a year later, the leukemia was back, and Ashtyn endured her third bone marrow transplant in November 2018.

"Ashtyn has acute undifferentiated leukemia. Less than 1 percent of leukemia patients have the leukemia she has. Less than 1 percent of leukemia patients go into remission after their second bone marrow transplant. And less than 1 percent of the leukemia population receive three transplants in a lifetime," a Go Fund Me for Ashtyn states. "Ashtyn is defying all odds and continues to amaze her medical team while inspiring everyone who knows her or hears her story."

More recently, Ashtyn—who wants to become a pediatric nurse and uplift others in their fight against cancer—has been battling pneumonia and kidney failure at Primary Children’s Hospital. 

On Memorial Day, Ashtyn received a wonderful surprise. On the Facebook page Ashtyn's Army, she posted:

"My mom woke me up Monday morning to tell me I had a visitor. When I opened my eyes I looked at him and was in shock that the prophet of God was in my room. He held my hand and although we had never met, it felt like he knew me and I knew him. I turned to my mom and asked her if she had told President Nelson about my kidneys and lungs that desperately need help. That’s when she told me that my kidneys and lungs are not getting better but instead are moving in the wrong direction. My oxygen needs continue to go up and my kidneys are not working the way they should be. This was crushing to hear. I always knew I was in trouble, but not this serious. I asked President Nelson for a blessing before he left. He gave one to me and then one to my mom. "Shortly after President Nelson left, I asked one of my nurse practitioners, Laynie, to come talk to me. We had an emotional conversation about life and death. She told me I’d be in tune with the spirit and that I need to feel peace with whatever path I take whether it is to continue on with no promises of a normal life or go to heaven. We talked about what it might be like being on hospice at home. She told me that everyone would always make me as comfortable as possible. There was a lot we talked about. I appreciated her treating me like family and wanting to make sure I knew that if I ever wanted to stop fighting, they would support my decision, but until then they will continue fighting just like me. At the end of the conversation, Laynie said she’d get up every morning to fight for me and that I wasn’t there to fight alone. I still have time to figure things out. Today I feel there’s a 50 percent chance I’ll survive. All I can do now is put my faith in God and take it day by day. "For now, I’m going to fight and spend time with family and friends. We’ll see if my darn kidneys and lungs step it up. I desperately need them to get better now. It’s not over til it’s over."

About President Nelson's visit, Ashtyn's mother, Suzanne, posted:

"I sat on the hospital couch Monday morning discussing with Jason the possibility of losing our daughter. . . . 'If Ashtyn dies, how can I ever trust my discernment again? This is not the ending I felt she’d have. There’s also spiritual promises and blessings that haven’t occurred. It doesn’t make sense to me. If she dies, I don’t know if I could ever trust God again.' That very moment nurse Irish opened the door and told us we had a visitor. I quietly said, 'I don’t want visitors,' and then walked in President Russell Nelson. I looked at the prophet of God and cried. 'Thank you for coming.' While hugging me he said, 'I’ve been aware.' Without a doubt I replied, 'I know you have.' . . . I don’t think his purpose in visiting was to give me advice or to tell us the future, I think it was simply to show us that God loves us and is aware."

President Nelson's visit came on the heels of a whirlwind, nine-day, seven-country Pacific Ministry Tour. And yet, this prophet of God had time to visit and minister to the one.

Days before President Nelson's visit with the Poulsen family, Suzanne posted on Facebook:

"A few mornings ago I woke up crying uncle to God. I was heartbroken, again. . . . My tolerance has grown thin when there’s a decline in her health. I’m extremely faint at heart when I see her suffering. As I was raising my white flag to surrender, feeling God wasn’t responding, . . . I was hurt that the hospital struggle continues but I was not going to shrink. . . . Here are a few thoughts that help us in our efforts to adapt and be resilient: 1. This long hospital stay is part of our story. Everyone has life stories that make us who we are. 2. I will never quit telling God how I feel and praying for exactly what I want but I also ask for strength and peace when I don’t get my own way. 3. There is purpose in all things and we are exactly where we’re suppose to be. 4. It will all work out."

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