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Parents: ‘Sheer panic’ as boy falls on sea pier

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Gideon and Erin Brewer appreciate every step their 8-year-old son George takes these days.

There was a time this year when they thought he might not survive, let alone walk again, after he fell from the top of a 24-foot climbing wall at Chicago’s Navy Pier in July. My family sued at Navy Piersaying it was negligence because George was wearing a harness but it was not attached to the safety rope.

Climbing wall at Navy Pier. (Via Levin and Perconti)

George is still in outpatient rehabilitation at the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and has emotional and mental challenges to overcome.

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

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

His mother said he remembers the day he climbed the wall until the moment he fell.

“He does remember letting it go and then saying it was just black until he got to the hospital where he started having some memories,” Erin Brewer said.

She said George did not remember asking his parents if he was dying, if he was going to die, or if it was all a dream.

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

“I kept saying, ‘Go Green!’ and he gave me “Whiter!” said Gideon Brewer, “and that was a little more comforting, 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 climb on her phone when he fell.

“It was pure panic because after he hit the ground it was quiet and I thought he was dead. I couldn’t even bring myself to even go there,” she recalls. “The officer on duty immediately picked George up and handed him to Gideon — I think I’ve watched enough episodes of ER and Grey’s Anatomy to know not to move someone who’s just fallen like that. . But I couldn’t even unlock my phone to call 911. I started screaming as loud as I could for other people to hear me and come over and help us.”

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

The Brewers were on vacation when it happened, and visited the Navy Pier climbing wall more than once that weekend—George didn’t fall until his seventh climb. Since everything was fine before, no problems were expected. Erin Brewer video shows George scrambling up a wall and then jumping, apparently thinking the safety rope would slow him down. Instead, he fell onto the concrete below. He has a fractured femur and pelvis, a concussion.

Erin and Gideon Brewer said the hardest part was seeing the changes in Georgie after the fall.

“He was a different person,” Erin Brewer said. “He’s gone from this happy, normal, active 8-year-old boy to now he’s in excruciating pain, he can’t move, and we’re in a strange city that we don’t know. It’s just he two of us; his brothers were not allowed to go up 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 confined to bed to using a wheelchair and eventually taking steps with a walker before being able to move on his own. Gideon Brewer said George had just made the football team before the fall and was wearing his football uniform now that doctors have cleared him to try running and jumping.

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

“Talking to you guys and going through this really reminded me of how far he’s come,” Erin Brewer said. “We had some very difficult days in the beginning, but it’s good to see that we’ve made progress.”

“You hear live one day at a time. I think sometimes, unless something like this happens to you, you don’t really know what it means,” Gideon Brewer said. “But when it does, it just gives you gratitude and perspective.”

The Brewers are also grateful to their family, friends and strangers who have given their time and other gifts to help them get through the past four months. MSU running back Jayden Reed even sent George a video sending him prayers and good luck from the entire Spartan football team.

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

George is scheduled for another operation in January, which will keep him out of bed for six weeks. Depending on how his growth plates adjust, he may need additional surgeries in the future. The Brewers plan to do it all one at a time.

Navy Pier said it does not comment on litigation. The spokesperson did not comment on safety measures on the climbing wall and plans to adjust them. The attraction is outdoors and is closed for the season.


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