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Student, nurse share special bond
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Brianna Porter first met Karla Koehler when Porter was a toddler and a patient at Brenner Children’s Hospital.

“I was there for like my whole childhood practically,” Porter said.

Porter, now 23, had several disorders stemming from heart and spinal problems — congenital kyphosis, a genetic defect of the spine; mitral valve stenosis, in which the mitral valve opening in the left side of her heart was too narrow; and Shone’s syndrome, a rare form of congenital heart disease.

Porter has had four heart surgeries and three spinal surgeries, her last in 2013 when she was 15. For a time, Koehler, who then lived in Mocksville, was her primary nurse.

On Tuesday, the two will celebrate that history in a pinning ceremony celebrating Porter’s graduation from nursing school at at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, where Koehler now is an instructor. A pinning ceremony is a symbolic welcoming of newly graduated or soon-to-be graduated nurses into the nursing profession. Koehler will pin Porter, who is to be a registered nurse.

The pinning ceremony is special, a culmination of all the nursing students have worked towards, and student often ask a special person in their life to be the one to pin them.

For Porter, Koehler is doubly special, “because she took such good care of me as a child,” Porter said. “She just made it fun, made it less scary. And I really want to be that kind of nurse for a child.”

Porter’s mother, Rayvonda Cannon, said that Porter will bring something special to the profession because she knows what children with medical problems are experiencing.

“She’s been there,” she said. “And with Karla pinning her, it’s like, you know, they’ve come full circle with each other, you know?”

Porter didn’t like all of her nurses at Brenner, but she took to Koehler, and their relationship since then has been marked by serendipity — or, as Porter and Koehler put it, “It’s a God thing.”

Koehler left Brenner in 2008 and went to work for Caldwell Memorial Hospital, where they again encountered each other, Koehler said. She left the hospital in 2010.

“And then I was a home health care nurse, and I was on call, and I got called to take care of a gentleman who had just come home from the hospital who needed IV drug therapy,” she said.

The man was Porter’s grandfather.

“I walked into the house and looked over on the piano, and there was your picture,” Koehler said, referring to Porter. “And I went, ‘I know her.’ ”

Porter said that the two “just kept like popping back up in each other’s lives. It was just the craziest thing.”

“And then I go take my placement test at college, and I’m in my car, and she like walks out and says, ‘I got a job here!’ ” Porter said. “I was like, ‘What?”

Porter eventually wants to be a pediatric nurse practitioner, using her wealth of personal experience and education to help medically vulnerable children.

Koehler said that she knew she wanted to be a pediatric nurse after doing a pediatric rotation in nursing school.

“There was just no question,” she said.

She has been a nurse for 21 years.

“We’ve taken this journey together,” Koehler told Porter. “You taught me how to be a better nurse.”

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.

Child survives near-fatal accident
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Nahum Meister was playing on a swing outside his home in the Gamewell area two months ago when the tree branch supporting the swing broke and hit the 6-year-old in the head.

His mother, Sunshine Meister, looked over and saw her young son on the ground in a pool of blood. She immediately called 911, and an ambulance came.

“I saw the paramedic’s response when he saw him. And I knew it looked just as bad to the paramedic as it did to me. I remember standing over him in the yard and thinking nobody lives through this,” she said.

Nahum was flown to Levine Children’s Hospital, where doctors told Sunshine and her husband, Todd, that Nahum’s prognosis was grim.

“Initially, when the doctors met with us, they said, ‘We don’t know if he’s going to live. The next week will be telling, and we do not know if he will live,’ ” she said.

The accident happened during a birthday party March 27 for one of Nahum’s brothers. The family had just eaten lunch, and Sunshine Meister was cutting the cake as Nahum and other boys were playing on the swing that had been in the backyard for years.

One of the other young boy was pushing the swing when the branch broke, hitting only Nahum on its way down.

At Levine, Nahum was placed in the pediatric ICU, where doctors did things like shine a light in his eyes to see if his pupils reacted. At first, they didn’t. Doctors told Sunshine and Todd that Nahum had severe brain damage.

For Sunshine, even as she feared for her son’s life, her greatest fear was about whether she would honor Christ in how she reacted if her child died.

“If I say I’m a Christian but I bring disgrace to the name of Christ by the way I respond when he does something I don’t like, if I can only say that I trust God when everything’s going my way, then I’m not sure I really trust God,” she said.

Eventually, despite the odds, Nahum began to progress. He began to move, becoming more alert. At times now, he is awake but doesn’t seem completely aware of what’s happening around him.

“He’s had moments of cognizance. Last week was the first one. My husband and I were both standing on each side of the bed. … He scrunched his face up to cry. We started telling him, everything’s OK. You hit your head. We’re here in the hospital. We’re with you,” she said. “Each day typically, you know, I see a little bit more wakefulness or a little bit more alertness. This process is not one of giant steps. It’s one of baby steps.”

Since then, Nahum has been moved to the rehabilitation ward of the hospital. His future is uncertain, but Sunshine said that the bigger story to her is not how he has progressed but how she feels God has worked in their lives since Nahum’s accident.

Sunshine has been sharing Nahum’s story on Facebook, and she has received countless messages of support. People have sent cards and letters, “where people are saying to me, ‘I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but God is using your story to help me trust him,’ ” she said.

“But then even here, a doctor told me this morning, ‘I go home at night, and I can’t quit thinking about Nahum,’ ” she said.

She said that the meaning behind Nahum’s name has become especially meaningful — he is named for a Bible verse, Nahum 1:7, that reads, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”

She said that before his accident, Nahum connected easily with people. A naturally smart, curious child, he often asked questions about the world around him. People he met would give him nicknames, and some have visited him in the hospital. His barber offered to make the trip to Charlotte to cut his hair.

His story, amplified by social media, is reaching people as far away as Pakistan, New Zealand and Nigeria.

Sunshine said that she sees God’s hand in the accident — she was told that if the helicopter had not left Lenoir when it did, it would have been grounded for three hours because of a storm that was brewing. Then, when Nahum needed a room in the rehabilitation unit, not one but two rooms opened up.

She is especially moved by how many people Nahum’s story has reached.

“It just shows me that it was not an accident. It was the purposeful act of God for His own glory and for His own namesake. That’s what gives it purpose,” she said. “We were in our backyard having a birthday party. We were just minding our business. And I feel like God bombarded our backyard, and he said, ‘I have a mission for you.’ And I’m not up to that job, but He has fully given His grace and His strength.”

Doctors aren’t sure how Nahum will progress in rehabilitation, but Sunshine said she feels at peace with whatever happens.

“When you find out that the nightmares that you may have as a parent, when they come true, ... that God is still a safe place, that His grace really is sufficient … and that you really can have joy on your hardest and worst days, … it takes a lot of the fear out of life. It takes a lot of stress out of life,” she said. “You just know that, if the worst happens, it’s still OK.”

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.

Furniture order gains continue
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Furniture companies finally managed to make a significant increase in February in shipping product to satisfy orders — but it still lagged behind robust growth in orders, so the industry’s staggering backlog of orders kept growing, a new report said.

Shipments in February were 18% higher than they were a year ago, and four-fifths of all companies responding to a survey had increased shipments, according to the latest Furniture Insights report from the Smith Leonard accounting and consulting firm, based in High Point.

But new orders were up 34% from a year earlier, so backlogs were 5% higher than they were a month earlier and 184% higher than they were in February 2020, the report said.

“Who would have thought that we would ever complain that backlogs could be too high, but in many cases, there is fear that orders may start being cancelled,” the report said. “The one thing that is probably helping with customer patience is that the same thing is happening with many other products, such as appliances, glass and other household products.”

February was the ninth consecutive month the industry saw double-digit increases in orders from the previous year’s level.

And while surging consumer confidence — a University of Michigan survey found half of all consumers, the highest level ever recorded, expect further declines in unemployment, and most express greater confidence in their future job and income prospects — probably means a continuing high level of orders, February is the last month that a direct comparison with the previous year will be meaningful for a while because March 2020 was the beginning of COVID-19-related business shutdowns, the report said.

Furniture orders crashed when the shutdowns happened but rebounded strongly by June and have not let up.

“It will likely be June or later before we start seeing meaningful comparisons, and even then, the surge in orders that we have seen since June will probably make even more difficult comparisons,” the report said.

Across the industry, problems with supply chains, escalating supply costs and labor shortages continue.

“We have had several conversations with industry executives that almost always end up with frustrations of how good business is in terms of orders coming and yet how difficult it is to either not be able to get foam or workers, or deal with significant price increases when prices were quoted before the material cost increases came into effect. Or orders are great but cannot get product out of Asia. Or the cost of containers, if you can get them, have quadrupled or more,” the report said. “It seems that no one would have thought that, for once, business in the furniture industry could be this good with consumer demand this high, yet so many problems have developed to make it hard to appreciate how good business is.”

Despite the problems, though, optimism heading toward the spring High Point Market in June appears to be high, it said.

“All we hear from Premarket (which was April 25-27) is that business is brisk with attitudes very good. There appear to be lots of people here in High Point with lots of excitement over product,” the report said.