A Texas teen — who survived a harrowing ordeal of being struck by lightning and being clinically dead for about an hour — is miraculously learning to walk once again.
In July 2020, Jacob Brewer, then 15, was leaving Siesta Key Beach in Florida with his family as a storm was rolling in.
“The storm started to move in and we started packing up our stuff and walking off,” his mother Barbara Brewer told Kennedy News. “He wasn’t carrying any metal, he wasn’t the only person on the beach and the lightning bolt just hit him in the chest.”
Brewer was left disoriented after the bolt struck her son.
“At first I didn’t even know what happened, it was like an explosion had gone off. I couldn’t figure out why I was on the ground and had ringing in my ears,” she recalled.
“Then to look over and see my son like that, I was like ‘oh my god, what just happened?’ My daughter saw it and she was like ‘it hit Jacob.’ It was crazy.
“I saw him start foaming at the mouth, his eyes rolled back and he turned purple — I knew he needed CPR and that I couldn’t do it myself. I had CPR training but I couldn’t think,” she continued.
Brewer started screaming that CPR was needed and three strangers — including a DEA agent and his friend — attempted to resuscitate her son for seven minutes while they waited for help to arrive. Meanwhile, the storm threatened.
“The storm got so bad it was right on top of us. We couldn’t stay on the beach, we had to get Jacob off the beach. I was just thinking ‘oh my god, I’m going to lose my son,’ ” she said.
“They carried his lifeless body across the beach all the way to the access point and then a sheriff saw Jacob and said ‘drop him’ and he started doing CPR on him as well.”
After another ten to fifteen minutes, the ambulance arrived and took the teen — who still did not have a pulse — to the hospital where it took doctors 45 minutes to an hour to resuscitate him, according to Kennedy News.
“They told us that he wasn’t going to make it through the night. They said even if he does he’s probably going to be brain dead so we thought he was gone,” she recalled.
The teen was transferred to Tampa General Hospital where he was put on a ventilator to help repair the damage to his heart and lungs. After two weeks of ICU care — including several procedures to alleviate the pressure building in his arms and legs — doctors had stabilized him enough to transfer him to Cooke Children’s hospital in Fort Worth, Texas.
“They had to cut his arms and legs all the way up to his elbows and knees to save them because they had swollen so badly from the lightning. He barely made it through that,” Brewer said.
Unfortunately, the teen’s condition began to rapidly deteriorate.
In addition to the pressure building, he had suffered a spinal cord injury and a stroke as a result of the lightning strike and was transferred to a Chicago-based hospital.
“There’s a lot of scar tissue from where his body had got so hot and the lightning killed some nerves because it went into his chest, through his spine and into his legs,” explained his mother.
“He has a mark on his chest and some other marks on his body because the lightning was so hot it burned his skin.”
“We realized that not only could he not use his legs but he couldn’t control his bladder or bowels. He was completely paralyzed,” she said.
According to Kennedy News, Brewer did not accept her son’s diagnosis and reached out to specialists around the world before coming across the Cyberdyne HAL, which stands for hybrid assistive limb.
The “wearable robot” aid reportedly improves lower limb function by detecting bio-electrical signals from the brain.
In addition to the robot, the now-17-year-old is undergoing intense daily physiotherapy using the device and is gradually gaining strength, however, his legs remain “numb,” according to Kennedy News.
“He’s getting stronger using this new technology — there’s only one in America, that’s why we had to move to Jacksonville to use it. It’s pretty cutting edge in the neuro-world,” his mother said.
The family has also set up a GoFundMe to help cover the medical expenses and splits their time between Texas and Florida.
“My husband and I travel 1,000 miles to switch off so he can spend time with his daughter and I can help Jacob with his treatment,” his mother said.
“We’re still fighting and hoping that one day things will get back to some kind of normality.”