Quinton Tate is coming home

Quinton Tate is coming home
Quinton Tate, his mother Diane Tate and brother, Jesse Washington. (Source: Diane Tate)
Quinton Tate, his mother Diane Tate and brother, Jesse Washington. (Source: Diane Tate)
Quentin Tate after second surgery. Staples were put in place to repair his skull. (Source: Diane Tate)
Quentin Tate after second surgery. Staples were put in place to repair his skull. (Source: Diane Tate)
JHS football coach Randy Coleman with Quentin Tate at Regional One in Memphis. (Source: Randy Coleman)
JHS football coach Randy Coleman with Quentin Tate at Regional One in Memphis. (Source: Randy Coleman)
Wooden cross signed by Southwest Church of Christ youth and participants in a community prayer vigil for Quentin Tate. (Source: Mary Beth Smith)
Wooden cross signed by Southwest Church of Christ youth and participants in a community prayer vigil for Quentin Tate. (Source: Mary Beth Smith)

MEMPHIS, TN (KAIT) - Diane Tate is a mother who can't wait to bring her baby home.

Her "baby," however, is a five-foot-eleven-inch son.

On May 29, Diane's oldest child, 16-year-old Quinton Tate, was injured so badly in a bicycle accident involving a collision with a truck in Jonesboro that many people wondered if he would survive.

It had been a typical summer day. Diane was at work. Quinton and his brother, Jesse, were going to go swimming. Jesse and Quinton were riding their bicycles on Meadowbrook with Latrell Brown.

In an instant, everything changed.

A carefree day turned upside down.

A crash and then, a thud.

Quinton's body impacting a truck, according to a police report. Then, taking another blow as he hit the ground. His brother looking on horrified and unable to stop the real-life nightmare from unfolding.

"Jesse turned around and seen his brother lifeless on the ground and took off running, traumatized and upset and crying. (He) didn't know what to do and that's when I got a phone call at work," Tate said of the day that changed her life in an instant.

The all-conference and tournament MVP for Annie Camp Junior High in Jonesboro, Quinton was beginning to set his sights on high school football and basketball. He had begun to practice with the teams and knew all the coaches at Jonesboro High School.

"Quinton is a rising sophomore, so he came over in the spring to football," Coach Randy Coleman, Jonesboro head football coach, said.

But, on the last Tuesday in May, Quinton's body lay on the ground, lifeless and still.

He had suffered a serious head injury the likes of which no one knew would be how serious until a team of doctors took over his care at Regional One in Memphis.

"I was at work on May 29 and I got a call from my cousin," Diane said. "Karmeice, my cousin's wife, told me that Quinton got hit by a truck and I just collapse and start screaming. I was trying to catch my breath and customers probably didn't know what was going on 'cause I was screaming and my boss came in there wondering what's wrong. I couldn't get my words together. I just ran out."

Diane was at work inside Fat City Grill when the grim news came.

"My sister, Donna, drove me to the scene, but he had already been airlifted to Memphis," Diane said.

Moments seemed to stretch for hours as she tried to get to the trauma center.

"When I got here and went back to see him, I passed his room. Then, the surgeon was like, 'Here his is. I was like, that's not my son!' Diane exclaimed. "I couldn't recognize him 'cause his head was so swollen 'cause the bone was pushing against his brain. I couldn't move 'cause I was shocked. My Mom and my sister, Donna, was holding my hand tight. My Mom went and touched his hand because she had some anointed oil."

Trent Rochelle, Quinton's father, was also there.

"His Dad was back there trying to hold it together," Diane recalled. "It was so hard to see my child like that. Very hard. I couldn't stop shaking,"

Diane remembers with clarity the pain, unlike anything she had ever experienced before.

"I was just praying to God. 'Please don't take my son!" she said.

May 29 is a day that will live in Diane's memory for a long time.

"That day was the hardest for us," Diane said. "I couldn't eat and sleep for a week I was in so much pain. My family and friends was in pain. I was trying to hold myself together seeing my son like this. I wished I was in the hospital bed and not him."

Diane's brother, Tyrone, was there too.

"Cowboy gonna be alright," Tyrone said trying to reassure her.

But, it was uncertain, at that point, what Quinton's prognosis would be.

His brain was swelling from the impact of the accident. He suffered broken bones, too. The first order of business was to relieve the swelling on his brain. Doctors removed a section of his skull to allow that to happen.

Quinton came back to his hospital room quiet, sedated and the only sound anyone could hear was the medical equipment keeping him alive.

Tubes crisscrossing his body, literal lifelines for a teenager who just the day before had been so active, so alive, now seemed to tether him to the hospital bed.

The impact of the accident knocked out some of his teeth and caused some of them to shift direction.

Diane saw the gaps where his perfect smile once was. But, she just hoped he would wake up and smile again. His family was left to wait and watch and hope and pray.

Meanwhile, back in his hometown of Jonesboro, Quinton's former AAU Coach Keith Gregory, and his current team prayed.

So did classmates of Quinton's from both Annie Camp Junior High and Jonesboro High School.

Mary Beth Smith, a member of Quinton's youth group from Southwest Church of Christ, organized a prayer vigil the following Wednesday evening.

The group held hands in a circle surrounding a cross and then each signed a wooden cross afterward to let Quinton know that they were thinking of him. Smith took the cross to his hospital room in Memphis. She also sold plastic armbands with the words, "Behind the Beast" to help raise money for Quinton's medical care.

"Beast" is Quinton's nickname. His friends sometimes just call him, "Q."

Progress was slow for Quinton. For many, many days he made no movement. Family and friends would come and go from his side. But, Diane and Quinton's father, Trent Rochelle, stayed.

"I haven't been back to work since May 29th and bills have been piling up. There's a GoFund Me page to help with expenses," Diane explained. "There's a 3-on-3 basketball tournament to help and Quinton's godparents had a garage sale trying to raise money."

The rollercoaster of emotion for Diane seemed to be never-ending in those early days. How badly had his Quinton's brain been injured? Would he be able to walk or talk again? Time would tell. But, the waiting game was excruciating.

A thousand memories would play over and over in Diane's head. Quinton had just received his first state championship ring in the ninth grade. She always thought there would be more to follow. But, Diane never counted on an accident like this derailing his passion for playing ball. What would happen from here? This accident was not in the plans.

Little by little, Quinton started the process of waking up. Players from AAU basketball teams he knew would shuffle in and out of his hospital room. Some visitors would stop and pray for him. His eyes would struggle to open when he heard some of the familiar voices. Then, as if waking up from a deep slumber, Quinton began to move his feet, his eyes and eventually would resume talking.

He had no memory of the accident or how he got to Regional One. But, all signs were positive and "The Beast" was awake and appeared to be on his way back.

"Quinton had so many people supporting him and praying for him. That's what pulled him through," Diane said. "All the love, support, and prayers. God was in that room with my son the whole time."

And there was a steady stream of friends and family bringing food for Diane, hugs and more prayers.

"I don't know what I would have done without my sisters, Donna Tate, Christine Tate and Michelle," Diane said. "Also, my Mom, Helen and my brother, Tyrone Tate. Zo Hampton, Yvette Lewis, Laverne Washington, Kenean Jones and Zorrie Sills were all here to help."

The days were long in the beginning and the nights even longer.

Diane would watch what was going on at home in Jonesboro through her Facebook feed and she would let the family know when Quinton eyes first started moving underneath his eyelids. She hoped and prayed more.

Diane looked through a newspaper article that she had captured on her phone.

One article read, "Jesse Washington and Quinton Tate scored 14 points apiece on Monday to help Annie Camp defeat Paragould 49-33 in junior high basketball." Both of her boys' worlds were torn apart.

Jesse waiting for word of his brother's recovery and Quinton medically sedated for two weeks to allow his body time to heal. During that time, Diane had time to reflect on memories. She remembered how Quinton had said he wanted to play for the University of Texas Longhorns and how much he admired #13 James Harden of the Houston Rockets. Memories flooded in and out of her consciousness.

Here and there, Diane would try to sleep. But, sleep wouldn't come easily.

Meanwhile, Quinton was making progress.

On June 13, he started breathing on his own. Diane would capture every one of these milestones on her phone and share images with family and friends on Facebook. The achievements, while slow at first, began to move along.

Soon, Quinton took his first steps with the help of a physical therapist. Diane challenged his mind to see if he could do a simple math problem. He did!

She also shared about how much she missed her other son, Jesse Washington, back in Jonesboro. Diane stayed right by Quinton's side.

He underwent another very difficult surgery July 9 as a surgeon put back the pieces of his skull that were removed to allow his brain to swell following the accident. So many staples covered Quinton's head as the doctors worked to restore the natural shape it once had.

Normally this time of year, Quinton would be playing AAU basketball. The coach of his Bandit's AAU team places his jersey (#32) on one of the chairbacks at each game.

His coaches have not forgotten him –just because he can't play right now.

"Quinton is a great football player and overall athlete. I could see it on the football field, but I also saw it in the hallway of that hospital," Coach Coleman said.  "I walked in yesterday (to the hospital) and the first think I saw on his floor was him, his Dad and his physical therapist walking the hallways. Every time the therapist asked if he could move more, he responded with a soft, 'Yes." It showed me that he will still compete and I think, win against this."

Coach Coleman has invited him to dress out with the team this fall. He is not released from doctors to play, of course.

"He will love that to show his support and encourage the team to go there and give it their all on the field," Diane said. "Hopefully he won't run out there and play 'cause he will!"

On Monday, July 23, Quinton took his first steps outside of the hospital.

His mother said they went for a little fresh air.

Doctors expect him to complete the rest of his recovery in Jonesboro. So, plans are for him to return on Friday, July 27.

That's right before a 3-on-3 basketball tournament called "Hoops for Q." It will take place at Annie Camp Junior High School. All proceeds will go to Quinton and his family to help pay expenses on his road to recovery. Individuals in the community, other schools and friends are invited to come together to participate. The tournament is for junior high and high school students.

Diane is excited for the return to Jonesboro after being in Memphis for so long.

She has one piece of advice that she is ready to share after enduring this experience.

"If you are a parent, love your child and give them hugs and tell them you love them every day 'cause you never know if it will be your last time or theirs," Diane said. "I almost lost my child. But, he is here and I thank God for that every day. Enjoy life and be happy because you only live once."

As for Quinton, he said he has one thing he would like to do now that he has survived this near-death experience.

"I want to play James Harden one-one-one," Quinton said with the biggest, most confident, full-of-life smile.

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