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Forum News Service, Published January 07 2014

UMD student who spent night in subzero temps has parts of feet removed

DULUTH – The 19-year-old University of Minnesota Duluth student found in subzero temperatures in mid-December in Duluth had surgery Monday to remove parts of her feet.

Alyssa Lommel’s mother, Teri, wrote on her daughter’s CaringBridge site Monday night that the surgery at Regions Hospital in St. Paul “went well.” She said Tuesday afternoon that Alyssa Lommel was in a lot of pain Tuesday morning.

“She ended up basically only losing the tips of her toes on one foot, so she has little nubs yet, which will help greatly for balance and walking, but the other foot they had to take just below the ball of her foot,” Teri Lommel wrote. “She should still be able to walk just fine with inserts in her shoes.”

During the surgery, doctors discovered more damage to Lommel’s heels than they had earlier assessed, Teri Lommel wrote. They had to remove more skin and tissue, which could hinder her walking if they don’t heal properly, Teri Lommel wrote.

Lommel, a sophomore, was found on the steps of a neighbor’s home on the morning of Dec. 7. It’s estimated she spent nearly nine hours outside on a night when the temperature dipped to minus 17 degrees.

Teri Lommel wrote last week that Alyssa was told about the surgeries and eventually agreed they needed to be done. She is expected to have surgery on her hands as soon as they heal enough where earlier procedures were done, her mother wrote.

Teri Lommel wrote that before the surgery Monday, her daughter’s biggest fear was pain.

“The docs have assured her that they will do everything they can to ease her pain,” she wrote. “I told her we trust them, and she trusts us, so she should trust them too. She says she does, but she’s still scared. She cried a bit and said she doesn’t want to have her toes cut off, and then I cried too.”

Lommel has been moved out of intensive care because an influx of frostbite victims meant more use of those rooms.

“It just breaks my heart to know that more people will have to go through something similar to what we have been through,” Teri Lommel wrote

“They say Alyssa’s case is still the worst one of the year, but winter is only half over. Please be careful in these frigid temperatures.”

The family posted pictures of Lommel in her bed with her hand bandages on, as well as one showing her getting around using a walker.

There has been an outpouring of community support for Lommel in her hometown of St. Cloud. Friends and family there and in Duluth held a benefit for her Sunday, and hundreds of people turned out for a dinner, silent auction and raffle, despite subzero weather.

“It was quite overwhelming for me,” Teri Lommel wrote. “I hadn’t been out in a month, so to see that many all at once was kind of shocking. I’m so sorry if we didn’t get to talk to you, but please understand we tried to talk to as many people as possible.”

Those at the benefit donned purple T-shirts that read: “You never know how strong you are” on the front and “until being strong is the only choice you have. A.J.L.” on the back.