Photo Credit Michelle Ashlee
Photo Credit Michelle Ashlee
Photo Credit Michelle Ashlee

Rody’s Story: The Dangers of Frostbite

He was staying at another shelter. One night he came back late and lost his place.  Someone else had his bed. Sorry. Good luck. See you later.

He walked out the door into the aftermath of a blizzard. It was brutally cold. Ice crystals swirled in the air. Only a few cars were moving on the streets, blurred, taillights the color of dying embers.

Where should he go? What should he do? Decisions are not easy when you have a serious mental illness clouding your thinking.

No one knows how long he struggled through the snowdrifts that night. Or how he lost a shoe. Or when he fell. Or how long he lay there, waiting to die. But someone saw a hulking shape in the snow and called 911.

The ambulance took him to the ER where he was treated for frostbite. His painful feet were wrapped in bandages. Then, when they were ready to discharge him, the hospital called the one place in Rochester that never closes its doors on people in need.

A police officer dropped Rody off at The House of Mercy, which receives no funding from the hospitals or the police or the other agencies that send people our way.

When Rody arrived, he could barely walk, and his bandages were already filthy. C.W. carefully, cautiously washed Rody’s painful feet and dressed them with new bandages.

Someone else brought him a glass of milk. Rody chugged it. He drank one glass after another. He said he hadn’t had a real meal in three days.

The other residents knew right away that Rody was in terrible shape. And they rallied behind him.

They gave him the best spot in the room and a cot to sleep on: a prized possession at The House of Mercy. They found clean clothes for him in the storage room. They brought him meals from the kitchen. They cared for him like he was a member of their family, like they had known him for years.

Even today, several years later, Sister Grace remembers the remarkable acts of kindness from people who were poor and homeless and dealing with their own struggles and demons.

Rody stayed at The House for three months. Nurses came almost every day to check on him. But with the frostbite and mental illness and other health problems that were getting worse, he needed more care than even The House could provide.

An ambulance came and took Rody to Monroe Community Hospital. And that’s where he spent the rest of his life. It was the end of a journey that started with a lost shoe on cold, snowy night.

The day he died, the hospital called The House with the news. We arranged the funeral, took care of the burial expenses, and our residents helped us honor Rody’s life.

After all, during the brief time he stayed with us, he became a member of our family.

In the years since Rody’s death, services have improved for the homeless. People left out in the cold can now find shelter and medical care.

But homelessness, mental illness, substance abuse and extreme poverty still put thousands of people at risk every winter. Without the right clothing, ice and snow and brutal temperatures do lasting damage to tissues, bones, joints and nerves.

That’s why there is an endless need for coats, hats, gloves, scarves, and boots to keep people warm and protect them from the dangers of frostbite and hypothermia.

You can help poor people in Rochester survive the blizzard season by buying warm winter gear on our Amazon Wish List. Your generous contributions will be shipped directly to The House and handed out to people who desperately need them.

It’s a great way to help The House…and honor Rody’s memory.

After all, how would you feel if you were out on the streets, all alone, with nowhere to go, struggling through the snow with a paper-thin coat and one shoe, facing the worst of winter barefoot?

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