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Florida attack victim is in a fight for his life

October 16, 2009|Rafael A. Olmeda

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — There are little signs that Michael Brewer's condition is improving, his mother said Thursday: He responds to her voice. He makes motions with his hands. He likes it when his mom rubs his feet.

But Brewer, 15, hospitalized at Jackson Memorial Hospital's Burn Center in Miami after being doused with rubbing alcohol and set on fire this week, has a long way to go before doctors know whether he'll survive and return to a "new normal" life.

Brewer's mother, Valerie, said in television interviews that she has rarely been away from her son's bedside since detectives say he was surrounded by five teenagers who attacked him. He can't talk with the tubes in his throat, but he moves his hands and responds to her voice, she said.

She used TV appearances Thursday morning to plead for the public to do more to end violence among young people.

"People need to really wake up and see what is going on with this generation," Brewer, of Deerfield Beach, said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

As for her son, she expressed confidence that he would survive.

"He's very strong," Brewer said on NBC's "Today." "I know he's going to pull through this."

The question of Michael Brewer's survival is an unspoken undercurrent in conversations between doctors and his family, said Dr. Nicholas Namias, director of the Burn Center.

"As far as families are concerned, only two survival statistics matter: 100% and zero percent. We're working for 100%," he said.

Brewer's recovery will be long, painful and very expensive, Namias said. But most of all, it will be unpredictable.

"People need to understand that burns are not just a skin injury," Namias said. "This is a total body, total systems event; it doesn't play out in the course of the day. There's continuously another shoe waiting to drop."

Brewer's body hasn't adjusted to the shock of being set on fire, Namias said. More than two-thirds of his body suffered second- and third-degree burns. His head, arms, torso and legs were affected.

As the consequences of the trauma set in, doctors will closely monitor things like changes in oxygen intake and urine production for early signs of lung or kidney failure. And doctors will be on guard against infection.

The cost of all this care is, for now, an afterthought, as Namias described it. But ultimately it will become a factor that Brewer's uninsured family will have to face.

"I don't know what the total would come to," Namias said. At the very least, he said, the cost will run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Five teenagers, all former friends of Brewer's, have been charged with aggravated assault. Jesus Mendez, 15, accused of lighting the fire, faces an attempted murder charge.

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rolmeda@SunSentinel.com Alexia Campbell and Sofia Santana contributed to this report.

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Michael Brewer's family has set up a foundation with Bank of America for anyone who wants to help with medical expenses. The foundation's account number is 898035752616 and funds can be deposited at any Bank of America.

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