Parents: ‘Panic’ as boy fell at Navy Pier

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – Gideon and Erin Brewer are appreciating every move their 8-year-old son George is making these days.

There was a time this year when they thought he wouldn’t be able to live, let alone walk, after falling from the top of a 24-foot climbing wall at Chicago’s Navy Pier in July. The family has sued Navy Pierand said it was negligent because while George was wearing a harness, it was not attached to a safety leash.

The climbing wall at Navy Pier. (Via Levin and Perconti)
The climbing wall at Navy Pier. (Via Levin and Perconti)

Still in outpatient rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, George is having to overcome emotional and mental struggles.

“He still has severe separation anxiety, doesn’t sleep well at night and has nightmares. They’re so dark, really scary, disturbing (nightmares), like being held underwater, things like that,” Erin Brewer said of her son.

But there is good news: George is running again and was cleared to run and jump two weeks ago.

His mother said he remembers the day he climbed the Wall up to the moment he fell.

“He remembers letting go and then he said it was just black until later, well into the hospital where he’s starting to have some memories,” Erin Brewer said.

She said George couldn’t remember asking his parents if he was going to die, if he was going to die or if it was all just a dream.

He was unconscious immediately after the fall, but eventually responded to a call to his favorite team, the Michigan State University Spartans.

“I always said ‘Go Green!’ and then he gave me a ‘Go White!'” Gideon Brewer said, “and that was a little bit more reassuring, but again, he’s not moving, so we don’t know if it’s his spine or his neck.”

Erin Brewer was recording George’s ascent on her phone as he fell.

“It was just pure panic because it was quiet after he hit the ground and I thought he was dead. I couldn’t even bring myself to go there,” she recalled. “The orderly who was working immediately picked George up and handed him to Gideon – I think I’ve seen enough episodes of ‘ER’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ to know that someone who just had a fall like that shouldn’t move. But I couldn’t even unlock my phone to call 911. I started screaming as loud as I could so other people would hear me and come over and help us.”

She said strangers comforted her 6-year-old twins, who asked: “Is Georgie dead?”

The Brewers were on vacation when it happened and had hit the Navy Pier climbing wall more than once this weekend – George only fell on his seventh climb. Since everything was fine before, they did not expect any problems. Erin Brewers Video shows George climbing the wall and then jumping, apparently thinking he’s being slowed down by a safety line. Instead, he fell onto the concrete below. He suffered a fractured thigh and pelvis and a concussion.

Erin and Gideon Brewer said the hardest part was seeing the change in George after the fall.

“He was a different person,” said Erin Brewer. “He’s gone from being this happy, normal, active 8 year old boy to being an excruciating pain, he can’t move and we’re in a strange city that we don’t know. It’s just him two of us; His brothers were not allowed to come to the floor he was on because of their age. It was really hard. He was angry and like a completely different person.”

Erin Brewer supports her son George Brewer in the hospital. (Via Levin and Perconti)
Erin Brewer supports her son George Brewer in the hospital. (Via Levin and Perconti)

George went from being stuck in a bed to using a wheelchair to walking with a walker before he was able to move around on his own. Gideon Brewer said George just started a touring football team before the fall and has been wearing his football uniform since doctors gave him clearance to try running and jumping.

Despite the challenges, the Brewers said it made them stronger as a family.

“Speaking to you guys and reliving that really reminded me of how far he’s come,” said Erin Brewer. “We had really dark days in the beginning, but it’s good to see we’ve made progress.”

“You stop living one day at a time. I sometimes think if something like this doesn’t happen to you, you don’t really know what that means,” Gideon Brewer said. “But when that happens, there’s only gratitude and perspective.”

The brewers are also grateful to their family, friends and strangers who have donated their time and other gifts to help them get through the past four months. MSU wide receiver Jayden Reed even sent George a video, sending him prayers and wishing him well from the entire Spartan Football Team.

“It makes you feel really grateful to have the people that we have in our lives,” said Erin Brewer.

George has another surgery scheduled in January that will keep him off his feet for six weeks. Depending on how his growth plates adjust, he may need additional surgeries in the future. The Brewers plan to take it all one day at a time.

Navy Pier said in a statement that it does not comment on any litigation. A spokesman declined to comment on the safety measures on the climbing wall or any plans to adjust it. The attraction is outdoors and closed during the season. Parents: ‘Panic’ as boy fell at Navy Pier

Grace Reader

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