GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.- Robert Stahl is a living example of what the frigid temperatures in West Michigan can do to a person. After spending weeks at St. Mary’s Hospital with frostbite on both of his feet, he will require surgery to remove the damaged body parts before it spreads.
Stahl shared his story with FOX 17 as a warning to others, “I basically want to say to the people who are staying out here in the cold weather, this ain’t what you want you guys,” he said. “If you’ve seen my toes, you would definitely say you don’t want it.”
Stahl never did feel the full effects of the wind chills that flirted with 22 below zero during the heart of the most recent cold snap. He was confined to a hospital bed at the time. A place he has been since December 13th.
“I was chasing down cans, so I could make a dollar or two to get cigarettes,” he said. “Then I slipped and fell into the river. My whole body, my whole lower half got wet and then I tried to back to camp where I could cover up with all my blankets.”
Stahl is homeless and and admittedly battles alcoholism.
“The last couple of years have been rough since I lost my mother,” said Stahl. “That’s where I took a total downfall.”
Stahl says the frostbite he suffered happened overnight.
“The following morning I ended up at Heartside Clinic and they shipped me here (St. Mary’s Hospital),” he explained. “They (Doctors) said if I stay out in the cold any longer I’m going to lose more than just my feet, I’m going to lose probably my legs.”
In two weeks Stahl is scheduled to have both feet amputated. After that he’s not sure what he will do.
“Even though my feet are unstable right now I can still work,” he said. “I will force myself to work.”
We caught up with him as he made his way to Mel Trotter Ministries, a homeless shelter and outreach center in Grand Rapids, but he says there are others who could find themselves in his position if they don’t get help.
“They need walls, shelter, out of the wind, and plenty of blankets,” he said.
He encourages anyone who wants to help after hearing his story to give to their local shelters.