A Kenyan runner studying at the University of Alaska-Anchorage had to have his feet amputated because of severe frostbite he suffered after he went missing for two days earlier this month.
Marko Cheseto, 28, went missing from the Anchorage campus Nov. 6. The athlete’s disappearance triggered a citywide search and rescue operation as snow and cold temperatures gripped the area.
Cheseto was found in the early hours of Nov. 9 near a local hotel suffering from severe hypothermia and frostbite in his hands and feet.
Glen Graham, the night manager at Spring Hill Suites, found Cheseto wandering around the parking lot able to mumble only “9-1-1.”
“He was so cold to the bone he could barely answer me,” Graham said. “He was pretty quiet. He could barely sit down. I offered him hot cocoa. He didn’t want anything. He just mumbled 9-1-1.”
Graham says that although Cheseto was wearing a winter coat, he had no hat or gloves and his white sneakers were frozen to his feet.
Lt. Dan Parker of the Anchorage Police Department, who helped with the search party for Cheseto, was surprised that the college student was able to function with his injuries.
“We’re amazed he was actually able to make his way inside,” Parker said.”That kind of frostbite you can get in a few hours out.”
Cheseto, a senior, is an All-American runner who set a record at the Mayor’s Half-Marathon in Anchorage in 2010.
While Parker said he was unsure why Cheseto disappeared from the campus, he suspects it had to do with the suicide of Cheseto’s teammate and fellow Kenyan, William Ritekwaing, earlier in the year.
In a statement released by Cheseto from the hospital, the runner referenced his emotional distress and thanked the local community.
“While I am still recovering – both physically and emotionally – I will do my very best to give back to the community that has helped me so much and to my home country, Kenya. I sincerely apologize for any problems that I may have caused,” Cheseto said.
Steve Cobbs, the athletic director at University of Alaska-Anchorage, said in a statement that the school and the athletic department will continue to assist Cheseto as he recovers. ”We take our responsibility and commitment to the student-athletes entrusted to our care very seriously,” Cobbs wrote. “We have been very supportive of Marko and will continue to support him during this difficult time.”