Frostbite survivor plans return to college

Published 10:04 am Monday, April 14, 2014

ST. CLOUD — A University of Minnesota Duluth student who suffered severe frostbite after a night in subzero temperatures is now walking normally, handling everyday tasks, and planning to return to school next fall.

Alyssa Lommel told the St. Cloud Times that she’s had some difficult days over the past four months, including dealing with the loss of parts of her hands and feet. She said she’s gotten through the hard times with the support of friends, family and strangers.

“There was tears shed and it was definitely hard, but after a while you realize, ‘That’s just me,’” Lommel said. “That is how I am. This is the new me.”

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Lommel, 19, was found unconscious in Duluth on Dec. 7. She had been outside for nine hours on a night when temperatures got as low as minus 17 degrees. Her body temperature had dropped to 79 degrees Farenheit, which is a few degrees below the point at which the heart stops functioning normally, and her hands had swollen to three times their normal size.

She spent weeks in a coma at the burn center at St. Paul’s Regions Hospital. Doctors cut open her arms to relieve swelling and restart circulation, and cut open her stomach to give her lungs room to expand.

“We were all prepared to say goodbye at one point,” said her mother, Teri Lommel.

Just four months later, though, Alyssa Lommel is walking normally and no longer needs special boots to protect skin grafts on her heels. She uses special tools to put on makeup and feed herself, and can even text and use touch-screen computers.

She is currently living at her parents’ house in St. Cloud. Despite amputations up to the knuckles of fingers on both hands and parts of both her feet, the college sophomore plans to return to the Duluth campus in the fall to continue her studies in psychology and sociology.

“Obviously, there is going to be a lot of work that needs to be done, but my goal is to be up in Duluth in the fall,” Lommel said. “I have all my classes picked out with the times and everything. I’m one of those nerds — I’m so excited to get back to school.”