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Man recovering after exposure during historic cold

MADISON (WKOW) — With dangerously cold temperatures back in South Central Wisconsin, one man is still recovering from his time out in the elements last week.

Dave Schueler said he couldn’t have spent more than 45 minutes outside at any given time as he went from warming shelter to warming shelter.

Without a home of his own, he was relying on places like Bethel Lutheran Church for shelter.

“I had gloves and everything else and I was still freezing,” Schueler said.

When he arrived at Bethel Thursday afternoon, co-director of homeless outreach, Bev Thom said something seemed off.

“It wasn’t easy for him to finish a sentence, which is unusual for him,” she said. “He looked weak.”

Over the course of an hour, Thom said Schueler’s conditions worsened. His heartbeat quickened, his face paled and Thom and her husband called for help.

“I almost kind of passed out because I don’t remember anything about the ambulance or getting here,” he said.

When he got to the UW Hospital emergency room, the doctors told Schueler he had a severe blood infection. Already damaged from diabetes, the cold made matters worse for his toes and it began taking a toll on the rest of his body.

“I had no idea how sick I was,” he said. “One doctor told me one more day and you probably would have been dead.”

To save his life, the doctors needed to amputate a toe.

“That scared me right to the bone,” Schueler said.

Now a week into his recovery, he’s walking again, even with one toe down.

“I teased a nurse and said I wanted it so I could make a necklace out of it,” he said. “She wouldn’t give it to me.”

Instead, Schueler is putting more traditional tools to work. He’s passed his time in the hospital making necklaces and pendants out of copper wire. Usually he would sell them at flea markets, but now Schueler’s found another use.

“I end up giving away almost everything I make,” he said.

Many go to staff and volunteers at places like Bethel. It’s a little something from him, to the people he said gave him everything.

“If I can bring a little light from their eyes, there’s no better medicine,” he said.

Once he leaves the hospital, Schueler has weeks of rehab. He needs to stay on an IV until his blood infection is completely out of his system.

When he leaves, outreach centers like Bethel say they will be there to support him.

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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