Kristo opens up about frostbite, could soon return to SiouxST. PAUL, Minn. — Downtown was filled on Thursday afternoon with people decked out in green, wearing shamrocks and lucky four-leaf clovers.
By: Brad Schlossman, Forum Communications Co.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Downtown was filled on Thursday afternoon with people decked out in green, wearing shamrocks and lucky four-leaf clovers.
But the luckiest of all may have been the guy at the Saint Paul Hotel wearing a green track suit with the number 7 on the back.
Just six weeks ago, University of North Dakota sophomore forward Danny Kristo was a few blocks away from here at Regions Hospital with a doctor telling him that there’s a good chance his case of frostbite would result in the amputation of some toes.
It didn’t come to that, though, and the standout hockey player has recovered faster than expected. He returned to the ice Friday night against Colorado College in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five semifinals at the Xcel Energy Center and scored a goal on his first shift in the second period.
On the eve of the tournament, Kristo sat down with the Grand Forks Herald and talked about what happened on the night of Jan. 30, saying that he was woefully unprepared for the 33-below wind chill temperatures of that evening, but assumptions that he was intoxicated are untrue.
“No alcohol was involved,” Kristo said. “I was not drunk. I know there are rumors going around about that. I did make some poor decisions that night, like not wearing socks and a pair of tennis shoes when it’s 30 below in Grand Forks. That’s not very smart. I did have some bad judgments on that night, but alcohol was not one of them.”
Kristo said he was home alone at his apartment, located across the street from the Alerus Center and behind Ray Richards Golf Course at about 9 p.m., when he decided to walk to a girl’s apartment located about seven-tenths of a mile away.
Kristo couldn’t drive because his car was at Ralph Engelstad Arena. He left it there the night before, opting to ride home with his roommates, Matt Frattin and Evan Trupp, when the team returned home from a road trip to Colorado College.
“We always carpool,” he said.
So, Kristo decided to take a shortcut across Ray Richards Golf Course to the girl’s apartment, which was located near the new Red Pepper location on 42nd Street. Kristo said he walked that path many times before.
This time, he wasn’t properly clothed for the cold temperatures. Kristo said he was wearing tennis shoes, no socks, sweatpants and a hooded sweatshirt. He had a stocking hat on, but no gloves or mittens.
There was a significant amount of snow on the course, but Kristo said it was iced over and he could walk on top of it.
“As I was walking, I hit some powder,” Kristo said. “My right foot dug way in there. It was almost waist deep. My left foot was still on top of the snow. I pulled my foot up and my shoe was off. I pulled out my phone (for light) to scan the snow. I couldn’t find it. It was dark in the middle of the course. My foot started getting really cold and I was digging pretty hard with my hands and I couldn’t find it.
“I looked back at my apartment and I looked to the apartment I was going to. I was closer to the apartment I was going to. My foot and my hands were starting to lose feeling and I knew I had to get there pretty quick. So, I pretty much ran there with one shoe on.”
UND team physician Greg Greek said frostbite doesn’t take long to set in when it is that cold.
“With those conditions? It doesn’t take more than a few minutes, if that,” Greek said.
Kristo, who also sustained frostbite on the hand he used to dig in the snow, said his foot was white when he got to the apartment. He wrapped it up and called Frattin and Trupp to tell them what had happened. They immediately went to the girl’s apartment.
“My first reaction was that I don’t know what to think,” Kristo said. “I knew I had to warm up it, but you don’t know many people who have had frostbite.”
Kristo told his teammates that he didn’t have feeling in his foot and they decided to take him to the hospital. Frattin threw Kristo (whose foot was wrapped) on his shoulders and carried him to the car and got Kristo to Altru.
After undergoing a few tests, a doctor suggested that he go to Regions Hospital in St. Paul.
Kristo called Sioux coach Dave Hakstol, who showed up at the hospital and stayed with Kristo until about 4 or 5 a.m., when Kristo flew to the Twin Cities on a small airplane. Regions Hospital did more tests when Kristo arrived.
“Right when I got there, the doctor told me how bad it was,” Kristo said. “He said, ‘You have a really good chance of losing some toes.’ I told him that they can do whatever they want to try to keep my toes.”
Kristo said it was frightening.
“When you think about that, everything else goes out the window,” he said. “I was thinking about life — not just my hockey career. It was a scary moment. I’ll never forget it. I’ll carry that with me — not just that day, but all the days I was in the hospital.”
Doctors used medications, and a method called TPA, to try to open up clots and get blood flowing to his toes. Kristo wasn’t allowed to eat for 48 hours.
“I would basically just sip water, tiny gulps, every hour,” Kristo said. “I had those two pumps in my stomach, so I couldn’t eat. A lot can happen in 48 hours. I didn’t get much sleep. I know for a fact that my parents didn’t get much sleep.”
Kristo said he was on many painkillers the first few days and was, as the expression goes, out of it. After two days, doctors put dye in his foot to see if the process worked. They found that blood was flowing to all of his toes.
“I don’t know how and I don’t think the doctors know how, but I had flow to every toe,” Kristo said. “That was a really good day for myself and my family.”
Then the recovery process started. A few days later, Kristo was allowed to leave the hospital and return to his parents’ home in Eden Prairie, Minn.
Kristo recovered at his parents’ home and was able to attend a couple of Sioux games during the recovery process.
He bounced back faster than expected. Doctors attributed it to his age and level of fitness.
“It’s amazing how quickly everything healed up,” Greek said. “It’s partly because of how young he is and how good of shape he is in and how healthy he is. Most people we see are usually not as healthy and are usually older.”
Kristo was able to rejoin his teammates in Grand Forks a week ago.
“It’s unbelievable to be back with teammates,” he said. “It’s such a special place here. I’m not saying that I took it for granted, but … you really learn a lot about yourself and things are put into perspective when you are sitting in the hospital.
“It felt really good to get back in the locker room with the guys and jus talk with them. It’s awesome because I know how close I was to having it all taken away from me. I’m really relieved and thankful.”
Kristo also praised doctors at both Altru and Regions several times.
“I can’t say enough about them,” he said. “And I don’t think I’d be sitting here today, attempting to play, if not for my teammates and coaches. What they have done for me the last six weeks, I really owe everything to them and my family.”
Back on skates
Kristo said there is still an awkward feeling in his toes when he skates, but he feels he’s back at his normal speed and he can still use his same skills. Getting back to his old level of conditioning is slowly coming along.
“I’m just really thankful to have the chance to play this year, and if not this year, then next year,” Kristo said. “It’s just good to be back, be a normal player and a normal student.”
Schlossman is a sports reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.