PROVO — Stacie Hunsaker said she was fairly new to the job when she witnessed one of the most heartbreaking traumas in her 22 years as a nurse.
A seriously injured woman was rushed into the emergency room at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo from the scene of a grisly automobile accident. As personnel worked furiously to revive the woman, it was learned she was pregnant. An emergency cesarean section was performed, but the tiny infant and the mother ultimately died.
As frantic family members arrived at the hospital and mourned the loss of their loved ones, Hunsaker struggled with her own emotions.
"I remember thinking, 'Do I want to do this? Am I emotionally strong enough to handle this?' " she said. "These things are going to happen."
Years later, she is glad she stuck with it.
With her faith in Jesus Christ and desire to make a difference in others' lives, the Mormon wife and mother of five has continued a labor of love in the ER for 17 years.
"Those events are still with me, but I feel I can make a difference," said the nurse who has learned to put up an emotional wall and cry later. "I love the ER. When I started, the ER was the last place I wanted to be, and now I don't want to go anywhere else."
Hunsaker is officially a nurse educator but works day and evening shifts on the floor to maintain her skills. While nursing is a physically and mentally demanding profession accompanied by moments of tragedy and trauma, it is also interesting and rewarding. Sometimes, even miracles happen.
Hunsaker told of a 9-month-old girl who arrived very ill. The doctor determined she had a severe case of meningitis. Death appeared imminent. She was flown to Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City, and no one knew if the baby survived.
"I fell apart after she left. It is too draining for me to see a child dying," Hunsaker recalled.
A few months later, a mother unexpectedly walked in with cookies and a healthy, giggling little girl. She wanted to say thanks. Once again, tears flowed.
"I started crying. As difficult as it is sometimes, to have even one success during your career like that makes it worth it," she said.
For Hunsaker, the key has been a belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. She has asked the hard questions at times, especially when harm comes to innocent children, but she also recognizes that some situations are beyond her control. All she can do is give her best for each patient and offer comfort to the families. It has been interesting for her to see some families rediscover their religious beliefs when death is at the door. She has learned there is no such thing as an atheist on a deathbed.
She also deals with each crisis by talking it out with co-workers and family members. She believes showing emotion is therapeutic, and it's when one stops showing emotions that one should worry.
"I cry every time there is a death or tragedy. I think someday I will get over this," she said. "But maybe I don't want to. I don't want to lose that."
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