Friday, April 24, 2015

TOP STORY >> Wakes after 5-month coma

Leader staff writer

A local family is asking for prayers and donations as they welcome with a bittersweet homecoming Lonoke High School graduate Toni Mathews, a vibrant 20-year-old who recently woke from a five-month coma.

Toni’s grandfather, Charles Mathews of Jacksonville, said the Arkansas Tech student is suffering from a traumatic brain injury — the result of a Nov. 17 one-vehicle accident in Russellville.

The family needs pajamas, sheets for her hospital bed, absorbent pads, briefs, pillowcases, pillows, washcloths, towels, cleansing face wipes, body wash, laundry detergent, Tide preferred, Lysol wipes, Lysol spray, a baby monitor with video and financial help with medical-related expenses.

Donations will be accepted any time at Lonoke High School, First Baptist Church and Victory Baptist Church, both in Sherwood; First Baptist Church in Jacksonville; the home of Brenda Law at 1112 Sorrells Drive in Jacksonville and Toni’s grandparents’ home at 213 Raney Place in Jacksonville.

There will also be a drop-off event from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 2, at First Baptist in Sherwood.

To contribute financially, search “Team Toni by Claire Wilkerson” on, and there is a “Toni Mathews Prayers of Support Page” on Facebook.

About the accident, her grandfather said, “We do not know what happened. She was on a gravel road. She was following her boyfriend (of about one month, although they’d been friends before that), and he looked back, and she wasn’t there. There was a truck that sped by him,” he explained. Toni was wearing a seatbelt.

“On a gravel road, you don’t know what happened…She lost control and hit a tree.”

The family is optimistic that she will recover, but that road will likely be a long one.

Charles Mathews said, “(Doctors) are saying that, you know, there’s a possibility, and it could take up to two years…She may never walk again, but that’s where we just have to trust God.

“We’ve got hope and our hope is in the Lord, Jesus Christ,” he continued. “It’s devastating. You think this happens to somebody else, but it can happen to you and your family.

“But, whatever happens, it’s all in God’s will and we’re going to trust Him for everything.”

Toni was flown to Baptist Hospital’s intensive-care unit in Little Rock after the accident.

She was there for three months. Toni was then moved to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Ga. — a facility that specializes in traumatic brain injuries.

She returned Friday to Carlisle. Toni, her parents and her sister moved there a few years ago after their mobile home in Lonoke burned.

Her grandfather said Toni is coming back because the next step the Shepherd Center could take was to enroll her in rehabilitation.

But, he explained, “She’s not able to move enough to go to rehab for three hours a day.” Toni is also eating through a feeding tube.

He continued, “She can answer, every once in a while, a question, but she is unable to move her(self), to turn her head, lift her arms or anything like that.”

Toni also has vision problems. “It’s hard for her to focus.”

Charles Mathews compared his granddaughter’s injury to what happens with shaken baby syndrome, saying her brain stem was stretched.

Before the accident, Toni was co-captain of the flag line at Lonoke High School and had joined the line at Arkansas Tech.

It was her third semester of college, and Toni’s good grades had gotten her on the dean’s list for the first two semesters.

The bright young woman was classified as a junior, having earned college credits while in high school.

Her grandparents say she hadn’t decided what to study yet s but was leaning toward a degree in social work.

“Toni was outgoing. She loved to sing. She was in a praise band with Missionary Baptist Student Fellowship in Russellville,” Charles Mathew said. “She was active in a lot of things, but her passion was band and the drill team (a.k.a. the flag line).”

Toni played the flute in high school and college, too.

Her grandmother, Judy Mathews, said, “She was enjoying college life. She was enjoying the music up there she was participating in. She loved the flags…She enjoyed movies, Walt Disney-type things and others. She had a dog she liked.”

Charles Mathews added, “She loved school.”

He also said Toni was giving back while in college by helping the flag lines at Lonoke High School and a few other small high schools in the area.

Her grandmother added, “She was just a happy person.”

Toni’s grandfather is looking forward to seeing her daily and singing to her, as they both share a love of music.