Aloha Brothers and Sisters! My husband and I are the physicians at the Health Center, and we are so grateful to be here. Returning to Laie and getting to work together on campus is a dream come true! We have three children. Nathan is 22. He served his mission in Chile and is here studying Biology. Anne is 20 and just left on a mission to Ventura, California, and has also been studying Biology. And Seth is 17 and is a senior at Kahuku High School. Royden and I were both students here at BYU–Hawaii, and this is where we met and started our journey together 29 years ago.
Ever since I can remember, I have always loved going to church and learning about Jesus Christ. My family didn’t attend church, but I had neighbors that were Christians, so I often went with them to church, Bible study, and church camp. When I was eight, my family moved to a home just down the street from an LDS church. I don’t remember how it happened, but I started going to Primary and was baptized. I felt something different in Primary and what I learned seemed very familiar. I didn’t have any problem accepting the Book of Mormon or the Joseph Smith story. It was beautiful, and it made sense.
Meanwhile, Royden was born in Tonga, where his dad was serving as the mission president. He is the youngest of five boys.
His parents had both served missions in Tonga in the 1950s as young adults and got to know each other on the boat ride home to America. I loved the stories his mom used to tell about Tonga. My favorite was when she delivered baby Roy in an old army barrack from World War II. There were two nurses, but no doctor. After delivery, the nurses took Royden into another room to get him cleaned up. His mom began hearing slapping sounds, and with each slap, baby Roy would cry. She naturally became very concerned. When one of the nurses returned, his mom asked what was happening. Laughing, the nurse said they were trying to keep the flies off the baby.
Royden grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, and his parents came to Laie after he had graduated from high school. His father was President of the PCC between 1988 and 1991, and that is how Royden ended up coming here to school. He initially left to study at BYU-Jerusalem and then served his mission in Argentina.
I also came here in 1988 thinking I would come for a semester. I had studied at BYU in Provo for a year and wanted a change of pace. I remember getting off the campus shuttle in front of Hale 2 and looking around in awe at the beauty of the campus with the simple buildings and gorgeous landscaping. The feeling of the humidity and sweet tropical fragrances were all so new to me. All of my senses felt alive, and I loved it here from that first moment. Again, I had the same feelings I had as a young girl going to Primary for the first time and feeling something beautiful.
I was assigned to be roommates with Charlene Goo, a local girl whose parents were serving in the Hong Kong Mission. Charlene showed me a picture of her family in the mission home. They were standing in front of a large picture of Jesus Christ. That picture touched me, and I remember thinking how amazing it would be to serve a mission in Hong Kong.
Of course, I didn’t stay here for just a semester but quickly decided that BYU–Hawaii was the place for me. The next two years flew by, and I loved my classes, professors, ward, friends, and everything about the BYUH culture. Though I dreaded leaving, I’d always wanted to serve a mission, so I put my papers in. My call came to serve in the Hong Kong Mission. I remember getting that call and feeling overwhelmed by my Savior’s love and mercy. I was beginning to see patterns in my life and how He was guiding me. He had been guiding me all along, making things possible that would otherwise seem impossible.
Two weeks after completing my mission, I returned to BYU–Hawaii. I showed up to physiology class, and no one was in the classroom. Just then, a tall, handsome young man showed up and said that they must’ve moved the class. He seemed to know where to go, so I was planning to follow him. As we turned around and began walking side-by-side, I heard a voice saying, “You are walking next to your eternal companion.” However, Royden didn’t hear the voice. So, I sat by him in class and eventually invited him to go to the temple. That’s when he started to get the picture. We continued to go to the temple together every week for a session and then ate dinner in the temple cafeteria. We got engaged after three weeks. I know that sounds crazy, but it was so right. It all felt very natural.
Ever since first meeting Royden, I felt like I was talking with an old, dear friend. Our talks started focusing around dreams of going to medical school together, practicing in a small town, and raising our children in a service-oriented life. We felt the Lord’s Spirit very strongly as we made our plans.
We had a lot of opposition in our early years. Many people tried to discourage us and would say things like it would take too long, I needed to hurry up and have children, that I couldn’t possibly be a doctor and a mother, the divorce rate was too high among medical students, it would be too expensive, we’d never be able to pay off our student loans, etc. But the Spirit kept urging us on, and we felt confident that we could do it.
We got into medical school together, had our son Nathan during our third year, our daughter Anne during residency, and our son Seth our first year in practice. We felt our Savior’s strength all along the way, helping us to stay focused, giving us energy when we were tired, and guiding us to find amazing women who cared for our children while we trained at the hospital.
We completed our residencies in family practice and prayed a lot, trying to find the right town for our family. We traveled to many different places and were finally drawn to a small farming town in Washington State. It just so happened to be the very town where my parents had grown up. We stayed there for 15 years. It was beautiful taking care of people who had known my family. Our partner in the clinic was a physician’s assistant who trained as a Medic in Vietnam. He had spent the past 40 years in that town delivering babies, doing surgeries, working in the ER, and taking care of everyone. We learned so much from him about life, service, and medicine.
To maximize our time with our children, Royden worked in the clinic during the days, and I worked night shifts in the Emergency Room. It was hard to leave my family and go work all night, but I loved the work, and the Spirit would often tell me, “I will take care of your children as you take care of mine.”
Late one night early in my ER days, I heard a loud banging on the door. A few guys were there, and one said he’d just been shot. As we stripped him down, we saw a wound in his right upper arm. I didn’t see any other wounds, so I was worried about where the bullet had ended up. X-rays showed the bullet to have gone through his arm,
chest, diaphragm, and into his abdomen. He was quickly having difficulty breathing as his lungs were filling with blood.
I was scared. It was just the nurse and me. I said a quick prayer asking for help. I hadn’t put a chest tube in by myself before, and thoughts were racing through my mind as to where to insert the tube and what size of tube I would need. I rushed to my desk and grabbed my Emergency Medicine textbook. It was a brand new 2,000-page book without any markings and very stiff. I put it on my lap and randomly opened it. As I looked down, I saw that I had opened the book to the exact page I needed. Not only that, but what I needed to know was highlighted, not with a marker, but with light. It was as if someone was holding a light directly over the paragraph I needed to read and what I needed to know stood out to me. I knew exactly what to do. As I did the procedure, I felt my hands being guided to quickly place the tube through the skin and deep into the chest. A large gush of blood immediately drained out, and our patient was able to breathe again. Once we stabilized him, we transferred him to the trauma center in Seattle. I knew that his life was saved by divine intervention.
A couple of years later, I started spending my free time doing family history. I found that I had many pioneer ancestors on my mom’s side. One in particular was Patty Bartlett Sessions, my great, great, great, great grandmother, who was trained as a midwife. She had been directed by Brigham Young to be in the first group of Saints to enter the Salt Lake Valley so she could care for the sick and injured and deliver babies. Everyone lovingly called her, “Dr. Patty.” She delivered over 4,000 babies and did a lot of general medical care. She was also a mother. As I learned about her, I felt a special closeness to her and had several distinct impressions that she was the one helping me in the ER.
That brings us full circle back to Laie. We’ve been back now for four years and felt the Lord directing us to prepare to come back for many years before that. Royden and I still are in awe that we finally get to work together again AND be with our children as they go to school here.
My testimony is that with Christ, anything is possible. I know that He lives, has a plan for each of us, and is guiding us every step of the way. He puts people in our lives to help and teach us. As I think back on my life to the days when I was a young Primary girl and to where I am now, I am humbled and amazed. It is all a miracle to me, and Christ has made it all possible. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.