Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, man fears amputation after developing severe frostbite

Romeo Tucci spent six hours lost in a blizzard outside Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Now he's fearfully waiting in an Edmonton hospital to find out whether he will lose his hands.

WARNING: Graphic images

A GoFundMe page has been created to help Romeo Tucci, whose hands were severely frostbitten and may have to be amputated. 'I'm scared. I'm a chef, I need my hands,' says Tucci. (Christina Tucci/GoFundME)

A Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, man who was stuck for six hours in a blizzard is fearfully waiting to find out whether he'll lose his hands. 

Romeo Tucci suffered severe frostbite on both hands after getting lost walking to a cabin outside of the community earlier this month.

"The wind was blowing so it was pretty much like a whiteout and I couldn't see anything," said Tucci from an Edmonton hospital Monday.

"I fell into a pressure ridge — it's like a crack in the ice. I pulled myself out, I kept walking."

Eventually Tucci found his way back to town and was rushed to the community's health centre.

'Frozen solid like a rock'

Tucci says his hands were 'frozen solid like a rock' when he reached the health care centre in Cambridge Bay. They later turned black. (Christina Tucci/GoFundMe)

Tucci said his hands were "frozen solid like a rock and white like a ghost" by the time he got to the health centre.  

"They thawed out my hands," he said. "Then they blistered and popped them, and skinned my hands."

According to Tucci, his fingertips started to turn black. He says health workers wrapped his hands in gauze and sent him on his way.

"I was sent home, and every two days they'd change my dressing, give me Tylenol No. 3 and send me back home."

Tucci says he stayed in the community for three weeks until health care workers decided his case exceeded their capabilities and they needed to medevac him south for more treatment.

"When they took off the bandages and saw my whole hand went black, they decided to send me down to Edmonton."

'I'm a chef, I need my hands'

Tucci has spent the past week being treated at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton.

He said he's happy with the care he's receiving, but the threat of amputation looms heavy in his mind.

"My hands are still intact right now," he said. "I think the doctors might amputate, but I don't know this for sure, I'm just guessing."

Tucci, a trained chef, says that would destroy his ability to make a living.

"I'm scared. I'm a chef, I need my hands," he said.

Family members have already started fundraising for prosthetic limbs.

The CBC has reached out to Nunavut's Health Department for comment. 

with files from Chris Windeyer


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