UMD student found on porch making 'baby steps' toward progress

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Doctors say they are "cautiously optimistic" about the recovery of the University of Minnesota-Duluth student who was found nearly frozen to death after spending the night outside.

According to KSTP, doctors expect 19-year-old Alyssa Jo Lommel to be on a ventilator at least through the weekend. She was taken into surgery Friday at Regions Hospital after she was having trouble breathing.

Lommel's Caring Bridge website says doctors have told the family she is making "baby steps" toward progress.

She was found unconscious on her neighbor's porch Saturday morning after spending nearly nine hours outside in temperatures that reached -17.

WDIO reported a big challenge is overcoming a serious infection and restoring blood flow in her hands and feet. KSTP reports that doctors say amputation could be an option.

A police report said by the time police and rescue personnel arrived Sat. Dec 7, Lommel's hands were three times their normal size and she had been outside without mittens.

FOX 9 reports her family has been meeting with a plastic surgeon to discuss skin graft options for Lommel's injuries.

Lommel was dropped off at her house around midnight Saturday. She was found by a passerby Saturday morning.

A benefit fund has been set up for Lommel at Bremer Bank in St. Cloud.

Stories like Lommel's have happened in Minnesota before. It was Friday, Dec. 13, 1985 when Scott Romfo was dropped off at the wrong home after a party in the Twin Cities.

Like Lommel, Romfo spent the night in -20 temperatures outside. Romfo survived, but not without lasting effects.

He describes the excruciating pain in a City Pages article from 2003.

Three times daily, nurses changed the dressings on his hands and feet and each time, the air stung his limbs to the extent that he would scream for Demerol--he eventually developed an addiction to the painkiller that had to be cured by acupuncture. He begged doctors to amputate his hands and feet and they did, finally, during a nine-hour operation.

Romfo recalls that during his long hospital stay, he experienced recurring hallucinations, due equally to trauma, pain, and drugs.

To help Romfo survive doctors pumped blood from his groin to near his heart in an attempt to warm up his body temperature which was so low it bottomed out the hospital's thermometers.

"We don't know how cold I was. All the thermometers only went down to 60, and I bottomed out all the thermometers." His internal organs worked to save themselves at the expense of his limbs. "There were lines at my extremities where blood stopped flowing," he remembers. "The blood was being used for the heart and lungs. They all said it was a pretty amazing thing, and that's why I was still alive."

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