DEEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — Michael Brewer's family members and friends gathered around the television set in their Deerfield Beach home on Tuesday, anxious to see the news they had already heard.
Never mind the toys or glimmering Christmas tree. This was their gift: Michael Brewer was out of the hospital, earlier than expected.
The 15-year-old had spent more than two months at the University of Miami-Jackson Memorial Burn Center recovering from burns over 65 percent of his body. He suffered them in an attack on Oct. 12, when, investigators say, a group of schoolmates doused him with rubbing alcohol, then set him on fire.
Three teenagers are charged as adults with second-degree attempted murder.
Brewer's story drew national attention and a flood of support. Meanwhile, the teen persevered through a painful recovery, one that will continue with regular hospital visits and physical therapy.
One of his doctors, Dr. Louis Pizano, associate director of the burn center, called his release on Tuesday ``significantly ahead of schedule.''
"He surprised us,'' Pizano said. "He was very sick when he came in.''
Pizano attributed Brewer's speedy -- but still ongoing -- recovery to a few factors: young age, good genes, listening to his doctors, and his family's support.
"The family was wonderful,'' Pizano said. "They provided the encouragement when he needed it.''
Brewer didn't go directly home. Instead, he stayed at an undisclosed location with his parents, away from the glare of the television cameras planted in front of their home.
Inside, his older sister, Malissa Durkee, was among several relatives who kept an eye on the TV, waiting to see the latest pictures of her brother for herself. Asked Tuesday how her parents felt, she described them as ``tickled pink.''
Brewer arrived at the hospital Oct. 12 in critical condition. He breathed with the help of a ventilator. Much of his nutrition was delivered through tubes. He went through four surgeries that removed damaged tissue and grafted new skin onto him.
Each graft limited his movement afterward. Among the most troublesome, Pizano said, was a graft on his back because afterward Brewer had to sleep on his stomach.
Brewer persevered through it all, Pizano said, and progressed enough to be discharged Tuesday.
But he still has a long way to go.
His wounds continue to heal, and his back is covered with an antimicrobial dressing. His motion is limited, due to a combination of pain and the time he spent unable to move much.
He will return to the hospital for several hours a day, five days a week, for physical therapy. There, he will work on regaining motion in his joints and his normal gait and endurance.
``You and I might be out of breath after a mile run,'' Pizano said, ``He might be out of breath after 50 feet.''
Tuesday did not bring much of a break, Pizano said. It may be Christmas week, but Brewer is expected back at Jackson for physical therapy on Wednesday.