A Boy Named Russell: The Impactful Connections Created in Nursing

The connections made between nurses and patients in a hospital can have an impact that lasts for years. In January of 2008, a young boy named Russell was rushed to the emergency department of Utah Valley Hospital after a sledding accident in Provo Rock Canyon. Unfortunately, despite the efforts made by the doctors and nurses, the young boy passed away. A few days after the death of her child, Russell’s mother sent the ED a note expressing her gratitude for their work and her faith that Heavenly Father had a plan for her entire family, including Russell.

Faculty member Dr. Stacie Hunsaker was one of the nurses working that day. She says she remembers that day more vividly than most days in her career and that she often reflects on her experience with Russell and the note she received. The incident impacted her to such a great extent that she uses Russell’s story consistently while teaching her students about nursing burnout and resiliency in the face of tragedy.

A few years ago, Hunsaker shared Russell’s story with nursing students. At the end of the class, a student remarked that it sounded similar to a “Mormon Message” and sent Dr. Hunsaker the link to the video. The video focuses on Jenny Hess, the mother of Russell, as she recounts her experience losing her son and the strength she found in her faith in God and miracles. As a result of this video, Hunsaker was able to find Jenny on Facebook. The two have since connected multiple times to discuss the experience and the profound impact on both of their lives.

Hunsaker’s and Jenny’s lives weren’t the only ones that were significantly altered as a result of Russell’s death. This semester, one of our capstone students at the College of Nursing is Karissa Hess, the older sister of Russell, who was in the emergency department with her family. Because of her experience, she has felt inspired to go into nursing and plans to work in the ED like Dr. Hunsaker.


Nursing is truly the Healer’s art and a divine calling that can create impactful connections fueled by faith and love. We are touched that Dr. Hunsaker and the Hess family’s lives have intertwined because of Russell’s life. If you want to watch the video that features Jenny Hess and her beautiful testimony, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYdm-dnDIck.

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