After brother’s death, local student plans Eagle River blood drive

Friday, April 28, 2017 - 09:29
  • Photo courtesy Danny Brooks Eagle River resident Joshua Brooks, 11, died from a brain aneurysm Sept. 13, 2016. An April 8 blood drive is planned in his memory. Eagle River resident Joshua Brooks, 11, died from a brain aneurysm Sept. 13, 2016. An April 8 blood drive is planned in his memory. (Photo courtesy Danny Brooks)

It happened six months ago with hardly any warning at all.

Joshua Brooks, a sixth-grader at Mirror Lake Middle School, complained of a slight headache in the morning, his family said. By the middle of the day, doctors were poring over the results of his CAT scan and rushing him into surgery. By 3:15 p.m., he was gone. A fatal aneurysm, doctors said. He was 11 years old.

Now his sister, a sophomore at Chugiak High School, is organizing a blood drive in his memory.

“With what happened to Josh, I really wanted to give back to the community and help in any way I could with the hospitals,” said 16-year-old Elizabeth Brooks. “Anything I could give back, I wanted to.”

Brooks, a member of the Christian scouting organization American Heritage Girls, had been mulling plans for some kind of community outreach event for a troop project. When her brother died, she said, she knew what she wanted to do – a blood drive to support the place that tried to save his life.

Her brother was generous and creative, she said. He had a temper and a brilliant mind, an enthusiastic, off-key singing voice and a sweet, kind heart. Before he died, he saved his birthday money to buy two-liter bottles for a class science project, because there were some kids in class who didn’t have any. He could build anything, his sister said. He would have been an engineer, said his father, Danny Brooks.

According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, a nonprofit funding medical research and education, aneurysms in children are rare. Though they occur more frequently in boys, the epidemiology is poorly understood, and there are few symptoms prior to a life-threatening rupture.

Before September 13, Joshua was a healthy, happy student at Mirror Lake and Fire Lake Elementary, the school he’d attended since the Brooks family moved to Alaska about six years ago, his father said.

In the weeks before his death, he looked forward to playing with his school band, vying to join the popular percussion section. He was overjoyed when he passed an audition, and Danny Brooks took his son to Mike’s Music, the local music store, to pick up his beginning percussion kit and music book. For hours afterward, the family’s home was filled with the sound of Joshua’s bells.

On the morning of September 13, the headache came on slow, then hard and fast. At first, they thought Joshua hit his head. When the left side of his face went slack and they rushed him to the hospital and saw the results of his brain scan, they learned it might be a tumor. Doctors realized what it really was when Joshua went into surgery. He never made it out.

After Joshua’s death, the community rallied around his family. There were outpourings of support from the schools. In one of the darkest times of Danny Brooks’ life, he held to his Messianic faith for strength and hope, he said. The funeral stunned him. Hundreds of people packed the Artillery Road church to celebrate the life of Joshua Lee Brooks; son, brother, student and friend.

“It just shows how great a community this is – I can’t even voice it,” Danny Brooks said. “This is a wonderful community.”

They hope those who can will support the blood drive in Joshua’s memory.

The drive is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 8 at Community Covenant Church in Eagle River. To make an appointment, email Elizabeth Brooks at johnbrook19@mtaonline.net. For information about donation eligibility, contact the Blood Bank of Alaska at 907-222-5630.

Contact reporter Kirsten Swann at kirsten.swann@alaskastar.com

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