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Burned Florida teen out of hospital

Michael Brewer still needs extensive therapy to treat severe burns allegedly caused by three teenagers in a dispute. His mother is focusing on his recovery and not justice.

December 24, 2009|By Ihosavani Rodriguez and Rachel Hatzipanagos

Reporting from Miami — On his first night out of the hospital since he survived being set on fire two months ago, Michael Brewer watched a movie while lounging on a couch and eating a pizza snack, his mother said Wednesday.

"We got our Christmas last night when he came home from the hospital," Valerie Brewer said during a news conference at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Her son, who was burned on about two-thirds of his body in the Oct. 12 attack, was discharged from the hospital's burn center Tuesday.

Michael, 15, is staying at a house his mother described as a "safe place." She refused to disclose its location.

Three teens have been charged as adults with second-degree attempted murder for allegedly dousing the teen with rubbing alcohol and setting him aflame. Investigators say the attack was in retaliation for Michael's calling 911 when one of them tried to steal his father's bicycle. If convicted, Jesus Mendez, 16, Matthew Bent and Denver Jarvis, both 15, could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Valerie Brewer said her family plans to stay in South Florida, but not in their old Deerfield Beach neighborhood, where the attack occurred and where relatives of the accused youths live.

Michael doesn't want to return, she said.

"He doesn't feel safe going back home," Brewer said. "He does fear for his life going back there."

She said her son doesn't talk to her about the incident because he doesn't want to upset her. But he is seeing a therapist, and probably will have to keep talking to one for the rest of his life, she said.

He jumped into a pool to put out the flames, but his injuries were extensive. When he arrived at the hospital, he was in critical condition and his survival was in doubt. He needed a ventilator to breathe and has undergone several surgeries, including three skin grafts.

Now, his mother said, Michael uses a broomstick for balance and endures immense pain when he showers, as he did Tuesday night.

Appearing on national TV before the news conference, Brewer said she had no opinion on whether the accused teens should be tried as adults. Supporters of one of the suspects have asked prosecutors to reconsider their decision to move the case out of the juvenile justice system.

Instead, she said, she's focused on her son's recovery.

"We thought he would be at the hospital for a year," Brewer said on CBS' "Early Show." "This is a Christmas miracle."

It is not clear how the burns will affect Michael as an adult, said Dr. Louis Pizano, a trauma surgeon at the Miami hospital, on NBC's "Today Show." He must undergo physical therapy five days a week and be monitored continuously for infection.

Hospital photos released Tuesday show Michael in immense pain as he performs simple physical tasks, such as raising his arms and moving his legs.

"He is just an incredible person, I'm so proud of him," Brewer said. "He is my hero, he really is."

She and her son focus on maintaining a positive attitude, she said on "Today."

Brewer said she and her son wanted to thank those who have been supportive of Michael's recovery on Facebook.

"It definitely made a difference," Brewer said. "Michael has realized what a strong support system he has and it has lifted his spirits."

ijrodriguez@sun-sentinel.com

Staff writer Rafael Olmeda contributed to this report.

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