Aric Brill was a smart and sociable 16-year-old who was on the National Honor Society, the step team and had a promising future. Five years ago, a bullet ended his life, but his family takes solace that some part of him lives on in five other people who owe their lives to his organ donations.
On Feb. 21, 2009, Brill and four friends were walking near the corner of Beesley Drive and Silver Road to get a ride from a party when five people stepped out of the shadows to rob the group.
“One guy said, ‘If you run, we’re going to shoot you,’ and he pointed a gun at a couple of my friends’ heads,” said Joseph Bentley, one of Brill’s friends. “But by that time, we’d already decided to get out of there.”
The youths scattered, and 16 shots followed them. Bentley was hit twice in the back and twice in the elbow.
“I’ve been out where it happened,” said Brill’s mother, Karen Brill. “There’s no streetlights. It’s so dark you can barely see your hand in front of your face. We think they were just shooting where they heard noise.”
Bentley’s arm went limp when a bullet hit his elbow. He climbed over a couple of walls and passed out in a yard. A dog woke him by licking his face, and he stumbled to a house and alerted the resident of the incident before passing out again. It wasn’t until he woke up a day and a half later that he found out Brill had been shot in the head and was in the hospital. Brill never regained consciousness and died a few days later.
On Feb. 21, Brill’s family and friends attended a ceremony in his honor and dedicated a quilt to him at the University Medical Center for Transplantation, 1120 Shadow Lane.
His mother described him as a thinker whose mind was always pondering big concepts, such as black holes and cosmic activity and how it affected the planet. He taught himself about physics, energy and computer science. He kept lists of goals he wanted to accomplish and books he wanted to read. She said his studies made him a kind, caring and loving person.
“It was Aric’s compassion and respect for life that caused him to become an organ donor,” she said. “I’m very proud that my son made that decision at the age of 15.”
Brill said when her son went to get his learner’s permit, she advised him to think carefully about whether he wanted to be an organ donor.
“He told me, ‘Mom, if I can’t use my organs, I want someone else to have them.’ ”
Joseph Ferreira, CEO and president of the Nevada Donor Network, said it’s important that people talk to their families about their wishes concerning organ and tissue donation.
“No matter what your wishes are, you need to make them known,” Ferreira said. “Making that decision for your family saves them anguish in the unlikely and unfortunate event that becomes an issue.”
Ferreira said the nonprofit procurement organization encourages everyone to register as a donor. He said one reason people cite for not registering is a fear that medical personnel might not work as hard to keep a donor alive.
“That’s just not the case,” he said. “Health care professionals will always make every effort to save you.”
The difference is that when organ donors die, a part of them lives on in the people who receive the donation. In Aric Brill’s case, his heart, kidneys, pancreas, liver and lungs went to critically ill recipients in two states.
Ferreira said some general details about the recipient are shared with the donor’s family, but they meet only if it’s mutually agreeable. In the Brills’ case, the family has met several of them, including a man they know only by his first name, Louis, who received Brill’s heart. In an emotional meeting, Karen and Don Brill used a stethoscope to listen to their son’s heart, beating a year after his death.
A small quilt hangs in the transplant center’s waiting room and features photos of Aric Brill, his National Honors Society patch, a circuit board and a facsimile of a sign he made that still hangs in his parents’ garage explaining Ohm’s law. Louis made one of the quilt’s squares, which features his photo in the shape of a heart.
Brill’s murder is still unsolved, and the family urges anyone with information about it to contact Crime Stoppers of Nevada at 702-385-5555. His mother is a volunteer with the Nevada Donor Network and urges everyone to become an organ and tissue donor.
After a year and a half, Bentley finished physical therapy and enlisted in the Army as a paratrooper. He feels confident that if Brill were still alive, he would have served in the Navy, as his younger brother Kevin is.
“I’m sure he would have graduated with honors and done most of the stuff on his goal list,” Bentley said. “He probably would be married and have kids by now.”
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.