Man shares story of his frostbite hospitalization after staying in the cold with his dog

Our bitter cold snap might be over, but the pain from the arctic air is leaving a lasting impact on some people who have been admitted to the hospital with frostbite.

At least 18 people have been admitted to Hennepin Healthcare for frostbite, one of whom said he’s lucky to be alive.

Jay Mitchell wanted to share his story to let others know about the dangers of the bitter cold weather, but his story also illuminates a touching story about the bond between a man and his dog.

His feet were wrapped up and his medication was at work Friday as Mitchell hoped for the best.

“I believe God showed me grace because I was fighting the good fight, I was doing the right thing and it may be a little costly what I did, but however, I would do it again. I would, for my dog,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell and his dog Hero were trying to survive the frigid cold snap in a truck. His wife passed away in December and his lease was not renewed. He had nowhere to go that would take Hero, too.

“I made it through the night by starting my truck every hour,” he said. “I mean, it was a fight for life.”

Finally, Mitchell thought to call a church for help. They put him and Hero up for a week, but it was just a little too late.

“When I got to the motel room about two hours after warming up I hadn’t been really warm in days and days and my dog was so happy he was bouncing off the walls to be warm and then I noticed white blisters starting to form on my toes,” Mitchell recalled.

He had frostbite and eventually ended up at HCMC’s burn unit to receive medication. Against doctor’s orders, however, he left to be with his dog and the situation worsened.

“So, he might have some amputations. He might lose some toes. He knows that. It’s kind of part of the risk, too. We have great luck with it if we can get these patients within four hours from the time they start to rewarm,” said Angie Whitley, a clinical care supervisor at HCMC’s Burn Center.

Mitchell did find a foster for his dog until he gets well and stable enough to take care of him.

“The minute you notice you might have a blister forming or frostbite starting, time is of the essence,” he said. “You need to get medical help right away. Ya know, I’m in danger of losing my feet because I didn’t know that.”

Mitchell will be in the hospital for a while. He says he could have lost his life, so he’s grateful. When it comes to staying with his dog, though, he says he’d do it all again.