On February 18, 2018, Jayson Brazeal left the Church Street gayborhood in a rideshare and had an encounter that would change his life. Shortly after leaving the bars at around 7:30 p.m. on that Sunday evening, Brazeal was found in a pool of his own blood outside his apartment by a concerned neighbor.

The damage done, and the trauma of the medical procedures that followed, left Brazeal with a hazy memory about the details of what transpired, but two days after the attack, he took to social media to detail his attack and issue a warning.

In his post, Brazeal reported, “I was attacked and beaten badly Sunday night. Both jaws are broken, broken nose, they had to sew my bottom lip back together on the inside, stitches under lip and under chin, two front teeth knocked out, bone fractures on the left side of my face, and multiple lacerations on my face and body.”

In his post, Brazeal describes his beating as a hate crime: “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. This must stop. Just because someone is not your type of “normal” you get to beat them to a pulp? No. Just no. In a million years I would never think this would happen to me as I’m sure anyone involved in a hate crime would feel as well.” This post has since been shared over a thousand times on Facebook.

Once his initial round of surgeries to repair his injuries was completed, Brazeal spoke with O&AN about his ordeal.

Asked for some additional details about the night, Brazeal said, “I remember being at Tribe, and I remember going to Canvas.” While at Canvas, a friend used an app to call a car to pick Brazeal up. “I’d been drinking and don’t drink and drive when I feel I’ve had too much, and they didn’t want me to attempt to.”

After this point, things are a little harder for Brazeal to recall. He remembers being in the back seat, and arguing with the driver, whom had taken issue with picking up a gay passenger and whom he recalls using gay slurs in their interaction.

“I remember arguing from the back of the car with [the driver] … with some regards to being gay, gay slurs, etc. The attack is black in my brain,” he explained. “Doctors and police have said that my brain may be blocking due to the trauma involved. After the argument, I just remember waking up in a pool of blood at the bottom of my stairs outside my apartment. I started screaming for help… A neighbor heard and called 911. I told first responders, doctors, nurses, and friends at the hospital that met me there that [the driver] did it. My police report shows me saying, ‘He beat the shit out of me because I’m gay…’ At that point I remembered it all, but because of the trauma the memories just went away…”

Police are currently unable to comment on the investigation, though they have given Brazeal some updates on the progress of the case. What is clear, both from Brazeal’s photos and from the medical interventions necessary, is that the physical injuries he suffered were extensive.

“I had my first surgery on the February 22. They did the left side of my face, as it was completely destroyed. It was worse than they thought once they opened it up, [they found] more damage than expected,” Brazeal explained. “My entire cheek area was shattered with pieces of bone everywhere. They had to scrape the shattered bones out, align my jaws, then insert plates to hold my jaws and face intact.”

“They had to use three metal plates in my jaws and cheek, [and since] the breaks were so jagged and from top to bottom, the incision had to be very long. They cut from the top of my ear, down the back of my ear, then all the way under my jaw,” he added. “They basically had to peel it back to try and repair all of the damage. Doctors say my jaws will be wired shut anywhere from 5-8 weeks. They also fixed the breaks in my nose that day as well. What was supposed to be a 2-3 hour surgery turned into almost 7 hours.”

When Brazeal spoke with us on February 28, he had just received some difficult news. “There simply wasn’t enough bone left to ensure this would all work and hold and heal appropriately,” he explained. “So they’ve scheduled a second surgery to operate again. They will be taking bone from my hip or rib to implant into the side of my face that was shattered, to ensure proper healing and to shape my face back to hopefully the way it was … but there’s no guarantee.”

Additionally, he added, “I was warned a nerve that was located in the areas they were working in, and the possibility of hitting that nerve. They did hit it, and my lower left lip down to the chin underneath is now paralyzed. The doctors said it the feeling could return, so I’m trying to be optimistic that it will.”

 Deeper than the physical damage is the psychological damage, both from the attack and from its aftermath. Brazeal’s lack of memory of the event is perhaps the least of it. His fear of retaliation is another impact—he isn’t yet naming the rideshare company publicly for fear of retaliation. But the impact of the physical destruction of his face has hit him hardest.

“It sounds really vain and I suppose it is,” Brazeal said, “but I’m in the beauty industry, and my worst nightmare has always been that something would happen to my face. Thinking of the possibility of attempting to go back to work with a possibly deformed face with paralysis is terrifying to me. The thought of no longer being able to be successful in my profession sickens me: it’s my passion and my livelihood.”

Friends and family of Brazeal have launched a GoFundMe page to help defray the costs of his extensive medical bills at gofundme.com/spread-love-not-hate.

 

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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