Photo: Michael Brewer.
MIAMI (CBS/WFOR) His story captured the attention of the South Florida community and the world: a 15-year-old boy set on fire by five teenage friends in a dispute over money. Michael Brewer suffered burns over two-thirds of his body and now, his parents and grandmother have spoken exclusively to CBS affiliate WFOR reporter Shannon Hori.
His parents say their son hasn't been able to fully grasp what happened to him. But even with all the drugs he's on for the pain, he has horrible flashbacks. He asks for water in order to put out the flames.
Five teens are accused of dousing him with rubbing alcohol and then using a lighter to set him on fire. He suffered second and third degree burns over 65-percent of his body.
"The first time I saw him I don't remember. I was in shock. I just remember fear for him," said his mother, Valerie Brewer.
It's fear for their child, who they say wasn't afraid of anything. His parents say he loved to swim, skateboard, and play with his cousins. He was typical teenage boy, one his father always wanted.
"When we first got together I said just give me a son so he can have my name. He can be male like me, but have your green eyes. And he has green eyes," said his father Michael Brewer Sr.
Photo: Michael Brewer.
His family says he also has a big heart.
"He still comes and sits on my lap," said his dad. He comes out in the morning and gives me a hug. He used to give me a hug when I dropped him off at school. But he got about 14, and that stopped."
Being in a hospital is a familiar situation for the Brewer family. When Michael's father was 13-years-old, he was hit by a car and in a coma for 12 days. He pulled through. His family calls him a miracle. They hope they are now witnessing another miracle with Michael.
Photo: Mathew Bent, one of the teens charged for nearly burning Michael Brewer to death.
"He's shown us his strength and stamina," said his grandma, Reenie Brewer. "He's like a superhero. I'm having a cape made for him."
His family believes his recovery is going so well because they stay positive.
"I don't ever cry in the room with Michael," explained his mother Valerie. "He senses it. He can sense what mood you're in."
His family is grateful for all of the prayers from the community and around the world.
"I want to thank everybody, everybody for everything they've done for my son and family. It's renewed my faith in humanity, after this horrific thing. It's empowered us and helped us to concentrate on Michael," said Valerie Brewer.
During her time with the Brewer family, Shannon gave Michael's parents items that CBS4 viewers sent us to give to Michael and his family, including a binder filled with cards made by students and a blanket.
"Things like this. This comes from the heart," she said holding back tears.
Many of the thousands of cards they've received have come from children. One that really stuck with Valerie came with a stuffed toy.
"In the letter, the boy was two years old. He said he kissed him six times and put it in a box and I just cried. I hope that Michael's story can make a positive change," said Valerie.
They hope what happened in Deerfield Beach that day in October never happens again. They hope disagreements between kids won't be settled with violence and--that adults will take a more active role to stop fights from escalating.
"Saying hey, that's enough. If they see something happening, say 'hey' to step in and not worry about if these are our children," said Michael Sr.
"The best thing they can do is to look in their own backyard and make sure that everybody understands that it's not OK to hurt anyone else," said his grandmother Reenie Brewer.
Michael was hurt over something so senseless. Police say he owed a boy $40 for a video game. When he didn't pay, another boy tried to steal Michael's father bike. Michael told police. Now Michael's entire life will never be the same.
"The scars that are going to be left physically will be tough to look at. But the scars that are going to be left internally will be much worse and they will take a lifetime of reassurance and love from everyone that's in his life, stated his grandmother."
His mother calls him her hero.
"I know I couldn't do what he's doing. If this had happened to me I probably wouldn't be here. He's my hero he is. I tell him every day."
Michael will likely be in the hospital for many more months. An anonymous donor has offered to match donations for the Brewer family up to $75,000.
Story Contributed by CBS Affiliate WFOR
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