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Police: Duluth Student Found with Severe Hypothermia, Swollen Hands

Updated: 12/14/2013 1:41 PM
Created: 12/11/2013 6:20 AM KSTP.com
By: Jennie Olson

A 19-year-old college student is in critical condition after being found unconscious and suffering from hypothermia on the porch of a Duluth home.

Alyssa Jo Lommel was found Saturday morning after spending the night outside in subzero temperatures. Firefighters at the scene say she was “stiff as a board” when they found her. Officers say her hands were swollen to three times the size of a normal hand and were “extremely white in color,” with the skin splitting open in some areas.
    
Duluth police said Lommel was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Her condition was described as "stable critical."
    
Police say Lommel, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota Duluth, was found unconscious by a passerby on the porch of her neighbor's house just after 9:30 a.m. Saturday. She had been dropped off at her home in Duluth around midnight by three men after a party, police say.

Duluth Police confirm Lommel had her house keys but mistakenly wandered to the wrong home, her neighbor’s next door at 808 Woodland instead of her home at 810 Woodland. The neighbors weren't home, so help wasn't inside.

Lommel collapsed outside in -17 degree temperatures. Police say Lommel had been drinking.

When police asked her friends how much she had to drink, they said she had been drinking tequila but that she “wasn’t wasted; she could talk and she wasn’t falling down drunk.”

An officer scanning through Twitter and Facebook accounts came across a tweet from Lommel’s account at 2:25 p.m. Friday that said, “Yum Yum 10th shot of tequila,” according to the police report.

Lommel suffered injuries from severe hypothermia and is at risk of losing a hand, a foot, or more. On her CaringBridge website, Alyssa's parents, Jay and Teri Lommel, said she's been through several procedures to help return blood flow to her hand and feet, even some skin grafting.

A post on the site Wednesday said Lommel is still on a ventilator but "her breathing has improved somewhat." Doctors are waiting for her tissue to heal before they decide what other steps to take.

The Lommels told us they're grateful for all the thoughts and prayers.

Alyssa is facing the threat of infections, too. Lommel is alert and knows what's going on, according to her family, but she can't answer questions because of the machines and tubes that are helping her breathe.    

UMD officials released the following statement to the campus community:

"Many members of our campus community have seen recent news stories about one of our students. Alyssa Jo Lommel, a sophomore majoring in psychology and sociology, has been hospitalized after sustaining injuries this past weekend. Our hearts are with Alyssa and her family in these difficult times.

Alyssa's friends have been deeply affected by this tragedy, and we encourage students to reach out to UMD Health Services for counseling and support.

The UMD Police Department urges caution in the extreme cold. Travel in groups. Let people know where and when you will be traveling, and check in.

UMD Health Services warns that exposure to extremely cold weather without proper clothing or apparel can result in significant bodily injury, including frostbite, hypothermia and even death in a very short period of time. Protect yourself, first and foremost, by limiting time spent in such dangerous conditions. If you do need to be outside, dress in layers, wear warm winter boots and cover the hands, ears and face with mittens, a hat and scarf or face mask since these areas of the body are most vulnerable to cold-induced injury.

Please help us with heightening awareness for winter safety and for looking out for ourselves and one another."


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