The lead doctor treating burn victim Michael Brewer said Thursday that the Deerfield Beach teenager is showing progress, and that while doctors are cautious about being too optimistic, they haven't yet seen the infections or complications that often accompany major burns.
"This is going as well as it can be hoped to go," said Dr. Nicholas Namias, director of the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital Burn Center, where Brewer is being treated. "Nothing bad has happened, and in our world that's good.''
But it can also change, Namias warned.
"Even though we are in a good place right now, this can get worse at any time," he said. "Any one phone call at any hour of the day can say we have had a turn for the worse."
According to detectives and prosecutors, Brewer was surrounded by five teenagers in the parking lot of a Deerfield Beach apartment complex on Oct. 12. One poured rubbing alcohol on Brewer while another used a lighter to set the 15-year-old on fire. Brewer ran to the complex's pool to douse the flames, but he still suffered second- and third-degree burns over two-thirds of his body.
In interviews last week, Namias described a long and difficult road to recovery for Brewer. "Not only were we not out of the woods," he said, "but ... we were not even in the woods. Now we are in the woods."
A small group of family members maintains a vigil at Brewer's bedside. Among them are his parents, Valerie and Michael Sr., and his great-aunt Patti Gendron. Namias said that Brewer is still not able to speak, but responds to his family and caregivers by blinking his eyes and gently squeezing their hands.
Namias also described the skin graft surgery Brewer underwent earlier this week. Much of the teen's damaged skin was removed and the areas were covered temporarily with skin from a cadaver, Namias said.
"We'll have to now see what parts will heal, and what parts will need grafting from his own skin," Namias said. "Now it's a matter of providing support for him while his body does its own healing."
Namias said that his team is also keeping an eye out for the respiratory failure that can accompany large burns, and remains hopeful that other organs, such as Brewer's heart and kidneys, will continue to hold up.
Brewer remains in a special inflated bed that helps relieve pressure on his body. Namias said that Brewer has received so much necessary fluids that his body has swollen to the point where "he doesn't look like a normal boy laying in bed."
The youngest of the five suspects in the case, Jeremy Jarvis, 13, was deemed competent to stand trial by a court-appointed psychologist on Wednesday. His 15-year-old brother, Denver, accused of pouring the rubbing alcohol on Brewer before the fire was set, also is being examined by a psychologist.
The other suspects are Matthew Bent, 15, Jesus Mendez, 15, and Steven Shelton, 16. Each was arrested for aggravated assault except for Mendez, who faces an attempted murder charge and is accused of starting the fire.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times