Aaron Brazier got a call no parent would want to receive.
Thanks to the resourceful social worker Mr. UC Davis Health, John Doe was taken by ambulance to UC Davis Medical Center was identified as Brazer’s 20-year-old son, Jake. He was severely injured in a train accident and was in a coma.
“We gathered there and my wife fell to her knees and said, ‘That’s him,’” Brazier recalled.
Brazer and his wife Karin will spend the next two months with their son. And Jake, an avid snowboarder and former captain of the Sacramento High School football team, eventually lost both legs and his left arm.
“A parent comes into the room and sees this boy who is in terrible pain,” Brazier said. “But my son is alive thanks to his nurses. Man, they’re my people for the rest of my life. And the doctors, I might start screaming their names, but they know who they are.”
After his son recovered in early 2019, Brazier wanted to thank the team that saved Jake’s life. He began volunteering with the medical center’s transportation team, taking patients to different areas of the hospital. A month later, it turned into a job. And 10 months ago he was hired by the elevator crew. Lift crew members are specially trained to lift patients safely to and from beds, chairs and examination tables, and to turn them over to prevent bedsores.
“I saw how the guys from the elevator crew take care of my son. I then learned many of these skills while Jake was recuperating at home,” Brazier said. “Now I am side by side with the nurses all night, laying patients down, helping wherever possible to make them feel comfortable.”
My son is alive thanks to his nurses. The nurses at UC Davis are, in my opinion, the best in the world.
Past occupation affects patient well-being
A few months ago, Brazier began to help in a new way, using his former profession as a hairdresser. Now, on weekends, he cheers up patients by taking care of their hair for free. That’s how he met June Carey in Regional Burn Center of the Institute of Firefighters at the University of California, Davis.
“I’ve seen him get better since the day he got here,” he said.
Carey arrived in November 2022. Over 70% of his body was burned in an electrical fire. Surprisingly, he lives to talk about it.
“You wake up two months later and find yourself in the burn unit,” Carey explained. “I almost died. I woke up and looked at my mother, they say, hey, what are you doing here?”
Carey from Oakland lost both legs and his right arm due to injuries. He has no memory of the accident.
But thanks to Brazier, whose son is also a triple amputee, Carey got professional help for his dreadlocks. In over 20 years as a barber in Sacramento, Brazier has served a wide variety of clients.
“I let him know that I can do white hair and black hair. And then I told him about my son,” Brazer said.
Dreadlocks are a hairstyle in which strands of hair are deliberately tangled and left to grow into long, rope-like strands. During his 80 days in the hospital, most of which he spent in a coma, Carey’s hair grew almost two inches. If dreadlocks are not cared for, the strands of hair can become tangled and tangled to the point where it is difficult to comb or detangle, which can lead to hygiene problems and discomfort.
Brazier said that proper care of dreadlocks takes more time than other types of hair.
“There is nothing easy about dreadlocks. What I do is re-braid the hair underneath and then plug it back into the dreadlocks,” Brazier said, tugging and twirling Carey’s hair for over an hour.
Beyond trauma with respect for common humanity
But Carey doesn’t let his situation bring him down.
“I don’t have two legs,” he said, “but there will always be someone who is worse off. I can’t look down and feel sorry for myself.”
Carey is one of about 20 patients at the hospital who have benefited from Brazer’s encouraging words, experience, and generosity.
Some may see the hair, but what I see is an act of caring for others beyond their injuries or illnesses, and a wonderful gesture of respect for our common humanity.
“We are so lucky to have Mr. Brazer on our team. He is a role model for all of us,” he said. Jennifer Baron, Chief Experience Officer at UC Davis Health. “When someone is under our care, he does not cease to be a person. Mr. Brazer’s service exemplifies the impact we can all have when we step outside of our roles and let kindness lead the way. Some may see the hair, but what I see is an act of caring for others beyond their injuries or illnesses, and a wonderful gesture of respect for our common humanity.”
Brazier enjoys talking to Carey about his son, a young man who is defying his disability. He’s going back to college, relearning how to play the bass guitar and teaching amputees how to snowboard.
“Jake is still undecided on his path, but he wants to use his life to help other people,” Brazier said. “I am sure that I give hope to every patient and family.”
Because he brings hope to patients, Brazer honors the nurses at UC Davis Health.
“The nurses at UC Davis are, in my opinion, the best in the world.”