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.