Fatally beaten teen lives on in spirit through donated organs

March 02, 2007|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,Sun reporter

Robert A. Brazell Sr. returned yesterday to the Ellicott City high school field where he watched his son play linebacker on the junior varsity football team - and where five days earlier Robert A. Brazell Jr., 18, was fatally beaten with an aluminum baseball bat during a melee involving dozens of youths.

He laid three roses at the 50-yard line in the middle of the muddy Mount Hebron High School field. His wife, Patricia, Robby's stepmother, left a red rose.

"I put a red rose for love, a yellow rose for friendship and a white rose for purity," Brazell said. "I know kids get scared ... but it was said that Robby was left there by himself [after he was hit], and that did not sit well with me. I needed to go back to the field."

Brazell said he looks back joyfully at the days his son played football for Mount Hebron High School. "It was great to watch him play. He was not a starter, but he was always ready for his turn," Brazell said yesterday. He recalled watching a video of a player "running him over, but he got right back up and he laughed about it."

Last weekend, Brazell kept vigil over his son in the intensive care unit of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where relatives marveled over what they said were hundreds of his friends who came to offer their support.

"It was like nonstop - the people were coming through like crazy. It made the parents feel great though because the kids were telling stories about him," Mary Brazell, an aunt, said yesterday. "Just hearing them talk about him and the lives he touched really helped bring some comfort to the family."

For family members gathered around Robby Brazell's bed Saturday night, the prognosis was grim. His condition was deteriorating after two surgeries to stop hemorrhaging of his brain.

Robby's relatives went to a nearby room to discuss donating his organs and tissue with representatives of the Living Legacy Foundation, a federally designated organ procurement organization.

"We wanted to make good out of this," his father said of what he called a tough decision. "Knowing Robby, he would have done this himself. This is our way of him living on."

He said his son's mother, Leslie Brazell, agreed to the donation, but with some exceptions -such as his skin. He said some of the organs given for transplanting included his liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas and heart valves.

Mary Brazell said the organization told the family the donations could save as many as seven lives.

"It helped to make his death at least more bearable," she said. "Even if he is gone, he is going to save other people's lives."

Brazell said his son liked to help others. During a whitewater rafting excursion after a hard rainfall last summer on the Patapsco River near Ellicott City, his son helped save somebody from the water when the person's raft deflated, he said.

Physicians ruled Robby dead Sunday afternoon. His organs were removed Tuesday.

Robby was struck in the back of the head during the melee. Police were called to the field about 12:30 a.m. Saturday.

Kevin Francis Klink, 18, a former wrestling champion from Columbia, was charged with first-degree murder in his death.

Robby, who dropped out of Mount Hebron High School in December, was planning to join the armed forces, his father said.

"He wanted to get his GED and join the Navy," Brazell said. "I belive within the next half-year or so, he would be in the military."

Brazell said he made a deal with his son that when he got his diploma, he would give him a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt SS.

His son responded: "I'm going to the military. I don't need a car."

Brazell said his son loved the outdoors and liked skateboarding and snowboarding.

Brazell last spoke with his son Feb. 21, when they talked about family. He remembered the final words he told his son: "I love you, Rob. Take care, and I will talk with you over the weekend."

Robby lived in Ellicott City with his mother and stepfather, John Guzek. His parents are divorced and his father lives in Edgewood.

Brazell said that although his son had not signed an organ-donor form, he would have wanted to help others.

Last year, the Living Legacy Foundation, which is the federally designated organ procurement organization for 21 Maryland counties, recovered organs from 307 donors, said James Merritt, the Baltimore-based group's community relations manager.

The primary criteria for being able to donate organs are being ruled brain-dead and being on a respirator, Merritt said. Patients in intensive care units are more likely to be candidates to donate, while thousands who die on-site in accidents, at home or at other locations are not.

"It is a very small group that ultimately fit the criteria," he said.

Currently, 2,116 people in Maryland are on the national waiting list for an organ or organs, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing's online database. Nationwide that figure was 95,232.

"We do not recover all organs from most donors," Merritt said, because of the health of the individual organs or the availability of a recipient. But, he said they typically recover more than two organs from each donor.

Brazell said the organization could not tell the family who received his son's organs and tissue.

"It might have been a tough decision, but it was the right decision," Brazell said. "Across the board, it was a good choice because he is going to help people out."

A memorial viewing for Robby Brazell is scheduled Sunday between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Haight Funeral Home & Chapel, 6416 Sykesville Road in Sykesville. The funeral will be there at 11 a.m. Monday.

tyrone.richardson@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Sandy Alexander and John-John Williams IV contributed to this article.

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