Mr. USF wakes after a two-week coma

Matt Dolson, winner of the 2008 Mr. USF contest, woke from a medically-induced coma Tuesday.

He was unconscious at Tampa General Hospital for two weeks after a bonfire accident left him with severe second and third degree burns. Since regaining consciousness, Dolson has begun to breathe independently and can even stand up and move with assistance, his father said.

“Matt is kicking a– and taking names,” Arthur Dolson said.

Matt Dolson is also recovering from a series of successful skin graft surgeries, his father said. The grafts, called mesh grafts because they don’t offer full coverage of the affected area, are composed of healthy skin from Matt Dolson’s uninjured areas. Skin from his thighs was used to cover his arms, skin from his chest was used to cover his legs and skin from his back was moved to his shoulders, Arthur Dolson said.

“Those look really good at this stage,” he said.

Although the surgery was successful, Matt Dolson will be monitored closely for complications.

“It can change at the flip of a coin,” Arthur Dolson said. “Infection is always a problem for burn patients.”

The medical staff has turned their concern to Matt Dolson’s face, which may not require skin grafts.

“They may not have to do any surgery on his face, which is a miracle,” Arthur Dolson said.

Just as miraculous, his father said, is what Matt Dolson has achieved since he woke up. He broke his two-week, four-day silence Wednesday by asking his doctor for Gatorade. Then, a day after regaining consciousness, he was able to stand and move around his room with a nurse’s assistance.

Arthur Dolson said his son’s progress has only begun.

“I watched my son sleep for two weeks and four days,” he said. “After he rises from this adversity, there is greatness destined for this man.”

Lynette Mills, Matt Dolson’s mother, said the support of others, especially that of her church and the USF community, has greatly helped her son and his family.

“We have gotten through this because of all the incredible support and love,” she said. “We cannot say enough about the students there at USF.”

Mills said that students have offered kind words through cards and prayers. In addition, students have created numerous Facebook groups to coordinate their support and share updates on Dolson’s condition.

Dolson’s doctors have not determined when he will leave Tampa General’s burn unit. He will likely need to receive physical therapy while he heals, his father said. However, Dolson’s parents are confident that their son will return to USF in the fall.

“Come August, he will be back in school,” Arthur Dolson said. “We are both optimistic.”