Skier who lost feet to frostbite still thriving

Skier who lost feet to frostbite still thriving »Play Video
Dan Witkowsk is seen during an interview at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
SEATTLE -- In 2004, Dan Witkowski spent five days lost in the snowy backcountry at Alpental.

He survived, but he chose to have his feet amputated.

Doctors said based on his severe frostbite, it was his best chance of living an active life.

Dan was back at Harborview for a surgery last week, and KOMO News caught up with him to find out how he's been.

Turns out, the biggest change in Dan isn't physical. He says it's in his personality.

"I was struggling with school and all that stuff. After the amputation, I was able to get good grades and focus," he said. "Mature up, I guess you could say."

Dan graduated college and got a job as the recreation manager at a center for people with disabilities

"Five days a week I'm doing something on my feet. Taking them swimming, rock climbing, building rockets," he said. "All sorts of stuff. You never know what my job may entail."

Dr. Doug Smith of Harborview Medical Center describes Dan as one of his most motivated patients.

"There's all these other people that have stuff going on, that have impairments, that have barriers. The fact that he is in a position now to make the world better for people that have barriers, that have disabilities, is just amazing," Smith said.

Dan was back at Harborview last week because as his body healed from his amputations, he had irregular bone growth.

Smith removed some hardware and reshaped the bone.

"Everything should be a lot smoother, get your activity level back where you like it," Smith told Dan as he was being discharged.

That high activity level includes getting back on the slopes.

Just a year after becoming a double amputee, Dan went skiing with KOMO 4's Kathi Goertzen.

"I want to see how far I can take my skiing. No limits. It's going to take me where it takes me and I'm going to charge with it," he told Kathi in 2005.

He's done just as he promised, showing he's not just surviving but thriving.