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UMD student who was found in cold is told of surgery plans

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The latest message from the family of frostbite victim Alyssa Jo Lommel says she was informed about upcoming surgeries that include amputations.

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According to Regions Hospital in St. Paul on Monday, the University of Minnesota Duluth student is in serious but stable condition, a step back from last week when she was listed in fair condition. Since being brought to the hospital in critical condition, she has improved to the point where she began communicating with her family.

Lommel’s mother, Teri, wrote on Lommel’s Caring Bridge website that the UMD student would be told about only one part of her care plan, thus far, since the impact likely would be the only thing she would focus on.

“He (her doctor) felt that today it would be good to just tell her about the amputations,” her mother wrote on Monday. “His feeling was that she would only hear that anyway, no matter what else he said.”

Teri Lommel has indicated that they are taking steps to tell the 19-year-old sophomore about the full extent of the plan to care for the severe frostbite injuries she suffered on Dec. 7, after spending several hours outside in subzero temperatures. She said her daughter has been shielded from seeing her hands or feet when bandages are changed.

Last week, the family indicated on the Caring Bridge website that doctors would be doing “some amputations” sometime within the next two weeks.

The latest entry shows that doctors and family members are waiting for Lommel to fully process what her situation is.

“(The doctor) also told her how lucky she was just to be alive, but I really don’t think any of that sunk in,” Teri Lommel wrote. “It took her several minutes before she looked at any of us. Then she started to slowly cry.”

Lommel was taken to Regions after she was found outside the morning of Dec. 7 on the steps of a neighboring home on Woodland Avenue. She had been dropped off by friends at the driveway to her home about midnight. It is assumed that she spent more than eight hours in conditions that reached minus 17 degrees.

She had been on a ventilator and was unable to communicate with her family until just before Christmas.

Frostbite, like burns, is classified according to the degree of tissue injury, according to the health website Medicine.Net.com. It looks similar to burns and causes similar damage to tissues.

Regions became one of the nation’s first burn centers in 1963 with the notion that burns needed specific treatment. It carries patients through from treatment to rehabilitation.

The hospital lists on its website a series of steps in dealing with burns after an initial evaluation. Doctors determine the burn size in order to gauge what is needed to replenish the body via intravenous fluids and feeding tubes.

As in Lommel’s case, patients are put on a respirator until they can breathe on their own.

She has been stable enough since Christmas to accept visitors outside of her family.

A benefit spaghetti dinner for Lommel’s continued care begins at 11 a.m. Sunday in her hometown of St. Cloud, Minn. The dinner, silent auction and meat raffle will go until 3 p.m. at Blue Line Sports Bar & Grill South, 1004 Sunridge Drive.

Lommel’s friends also will be selling T-shirts.

All money raised will go to Lommel’s Bremer Bank fund. To donate an item, call Esther Widor at (320) 281-3911.

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