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Mom: Burned teen looking forward to Christmas with family

Michael Brewer was burned over 65 percent of his body in October.
Michael Brewer was burned over 65 percent of his body in October.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Michael Brewer, 15, was severely burned in October, allegedly by teens he knew
  • Getting out of hospital was "the only thing he wanted for Christmas," his mom says
  • Brewer family to spend holiday at "a safe place," not their old home
  • Doctors credit Brewer's "miraculous" recovery to his determination, spirit

Miami, Florida (CNN) -- He wanted to sit outside for a while and enjoy the night air, then took a shower and curled up on the couch to watch a cartoon movie.

A boring night by many teenagers' standards. But 15-year-old Michael Brewer, who suffered burns over 65 percent of his body in October -- allegedly at the hands of a group of youths he knew -- reveled in it, his mother told reporters Wednesday. Being out of a hospital burn unit, she said, was "the only thing he wanted for Christmas."

"He's really looking forward to spending Christmas with his family," Valerie Brewer said of her son, who was released from the University of Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital Burn Center on Tuesday. "We hope everybody has as wonderful a Christmas as we're going to have."

Three teens -- Denver Jarvis and Matthew Bent, both 15, and Jesus Mendez, 16 -- are accused of being in a group that poured alcohol over Brewer and set him ablaze October 12 in what police said was a dispute over $40, a video game and a bicycle. All three teens are charged as adults with one count of attempted murder. Each has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, each could face a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

The family did not return to their Deerfield Beach, Florida, home, and does not plan to, Valerie Brewer said. Instead, they went to "a safe place" -- both so they can have privacy and so Michael Brewer can feel secure.

"He doesn't feel safe going back to the neighborhood," she said. "The families of the boys live within five blocks of us. He does fear for his life going back there. ... He doesn't want to go back and I don't blame him. We're looking forward to moving on and having some peace." She told CNN in an interview later Wednesday the family is looking for another home.

Video: Burned boy leaves hospital
Video: Boy burned in attack released

Brewer, who suffered second- and third-degree burns over about two-thirds of his body, has "a long road ahead of him," Dr. Louis Pizano, associate director of the burn center, said Wednesday. He faces hours of physical therapy five days a week, Pizano said -- a painful process both because of the burns and because of muscle atrophy resulting from the recovery process. Therapists are working to help him walk more easily and regain a range of motion in his arms and legs, Pizano said.

Doctors are hopeful Brewer will not require any more skin grafts, he said.

Valerie Brewer told CNN in a later interview Wednesday that her son managed to shower "all by himself" Tuesday night. Showers can be excruciating for him, she said, as it hurts when the soap and water hit his open wounds. Plus, she said, he must take a piece of gauze and wipe his wounds to get any dead skin off. "He's very courageous for doing it by himself."

Besides his painful treatment and recovery, Brewer suffered an emotional toll, his mother said.

"He really doesn't talk about it with me or with his father," Valerie Brewer said. "He talks to the therapists about it because he doesn't want to upset us."

He takes medication to help with night terrors, she told CNN, but "he wakes up every night with nightmares." She said she sleeps about three or four hours a night, depending on how many times her son wakes up in pain or with a nightmare.

He never gave up on anything. ... His will to live is just unbelievable, and to move on and live a happy, normal life.
--Valerie Brewer, Michael's mother
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Detectives say eyewitnesses told them that Mendez used a lighter to set fire to Brewer after Jarvis poured alcohol over him. Bent allegedly encouraged the attack, police said. Brewer jumped into a pool at his apartment complex to put out the flames.

Authorities have said Mendez admitted setting Brewer on fire. According to an arrest transcript, the boy said he made a "bad decision."

Pizano said Wednesday he would have predicted a six-moth hospital stay for Brewer. While he said it is "miraculous" that Brewer was released in two months, "the reason why he's home so early is because of him." He said Brewer did everything he needed to do, a formidable task even for an injured adult. "He followed everything to the T, and he got home early."

Brewer will be home-schooled for the rest of this year and possibly next to allow his recovery to progress, Valerie Brewer said.

"He never gave up on anything," she said. "He got a little depressed once in a while -- anybody would, going through this kind of situation -- but his will to live is just unbelievable, and to move on and live a happy, normal life."

She told CNN, "He's such inspiration to me. Seeing him go through this -- I know the rest of his life, he's going to have challenges, but nothing is going to ever amount to what he has gone through now, and what he's going to go through for the next several months."