Family Battling Cancer Receives Touching Surprise Visit From President Nelson

Photo of President Nelson visiting a woman in the hospital.

In 2013, 12-year-old Ashtyn Poulsen was diagnosed with leukemia. The battle rages on today. The Poulsen family chronicles Ashtyn’s journey on the Facebook page, Ashtyn’s Army. Most recently, according to Ashtyn’s Army, her kidneys have been getting worse. They’re not processing enough of the fluids that Ashtyn needs to be consuming, which means the excess fluid is absorbed by other parts of her body, including her lungs. In short, Ashtyn is a fighter, but things are getting worse.

It was in the wake of these crushing developments that a visitor showed up at Ashtyn’s hospital room. Here’s what Ashtyn’s mother posted a few days ago:

Just in case you’re unable to see the actual post, here’s what Ashtyn’s mom wrote:

•My thoughts about our Memorial Day•

I sat on the hospital couch Monday morning discussing with Jason the possibility of losing our daughter. Everything is being done to save her life but her body is not showing any signs that it will improve, so her comfort is our priority. I began thinking back on different feelings I’ve had during the 6 year cancer fight. To me it just didn’t make sense that she would die. I know the reality that kids die and never assumed we were immune to that trial, however it just didn’t make sense to me that this is the end of Ashtyn’s story. Speaking my feelings to Jason, ‘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.’ He sat on the couch next to Ashtyn as I woke her up. When she opened her eyes and saw who was there she said, ‘Hi! Did you come to the hospital to visit sick people?’ He responded, ‘I came to the hospital to visit you. You are my hero.’ She asked if I had told him about her lungs and kidneys. With tears in my eyes, I told them both that things are getting worse with each day. I shared with him all my feelings of confusion and added ‘I’m willing to do God’s will. I just need some clarity because if Ashtyn dies, I don’t want it to break me.’ He didn’t have any profound guidance to give me. 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. Throughout the rest of the day, we spent time with Morgan, Chandler, Ethan, Jason, Natalie, and our two dogs Marlie and Koda. We are all absorbing the possibility of Ashtyn dying while feeling some hope that health just might be given back to her.

President Nelson is a stand-up guy. He just finished his Pacific ministry trip. I’m sure he could have taken Memorial Day off, but instead he was quietly visiting this family. No story about it from the Church’s Newsroom. Nothing about it on the Church’s official website. Nobody would have known about this act of kindness had Ashtyn’s mother not shared it. It reminds me of Matthew 6:1-4,

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

After doing a little more research into Ashtyn’s story, I found that Sister Bonnie Cordon (Young Women General President) and Sister Michelle Craig (First Counselor in the Young Women General PResidency) also paid Ashtyn a visit in February. I’m grateful for the examples of being “anxiously engaged in a good cause” that our leaders set for us, and I’m grateful for the way they set it.

Please keep Ashtyn and her family in your prayers.

Here’s a link to her GoFundMe if you’d like to help the family out financially.

David Snell is a proud member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He's the Founder of The Sunday Pews, and has experience writing for Mormon Newsroom Pacific, KBYU11, Classical 89 Radio, and plenty more. He tries not to take himself too seriously and just wants to brighten your day a bit.