EDMONTON -- WARNING: This story contains imagery which some viewers may find disturbing. 

A Spruce Grove, Alta., mom is sharing a warning about the dangers of cold weather after her daughter lost feeling in her hands for days after walking home without mittens.

Connie Gagan says too few people take extreme temperatures – like the Edmonton region has seen in the last week – as seriously as they should.

“I wanted something that would hit home, that might shock them,” she said of wanting to share the story.

“If we shock them, maybe they’ll pay attention.”

Shocking, indeed, describes the several-day loss of sensation her daughter experienced in her hands after walking home from school on Jan. 10.

The 16-year-old had an exam she expected to be finished by 11 a.m., when they’d planned for her to be driven home.

Gagan says her daughter finished early and became impatient, deciding instead to walk the five kilometres to their house.

According to Environment Canada, Jan. 10 saw a high of -18.5 C and low of -28 C.

“She didn’t even have a proper coat to walk home in. It’s a battle we’ve been having with her for years to try to get her to dress properly for the weather,” Gagan told CTV News Edmonton, explaining her daughter borrowed a heavier jacket before leaving the school.

But the teen’s hands were exposed for the estimated 45-minute walk.

At some point, the girl’s hands went numb. Finally, she arrived home.

“And then the hands started to warm up and that’s when the pain set in and it was excruciating,” recalled Gagan.

Gagan’s daughter called her at work, hysterical because of the pain. The mom rushed home to take the teen to a doctor, who advised warming the hands up gradually by placing them in cool to lukewarm water for 10 minutes, once every half hour, for 12 hours.

But the next day, the teen’s hands blistered, prompting a trip to the emergency room.

“Both hands at that time were in too much pain for her to move and she had no sensation in her hands.”


'They’re underestimating the weather... and how serious the consequences really could be'

A week later, Gagan’s daughter’s hands are still discoloured, but the blood is starting to flow properly again. However, Gagan said it’ll take about three months for the tissue killed to regenerate.

It’s unknown how much nerve damage the teen sustained. The Gagans were told her right hand will always be at risk because of the incident.

“The doctor said she could’ve lost her fingers and she could’ve. She got lucky.”

Gagan told CTV News Edmonton her daughter is doing as well as she can right now.

“She’s a teenager and so she wants to downplay this – especially to her friends and make it seem like it’s not as big a deal as it is,” the mom commented.

But Gagan’s not ready to downplay anything.

“This is a common argument in our house. We’ve got hats and mitts ‘till the cows come home in our back porch that she could take, and we can not get her to wear them,” she said.

After taking her message to social media, the Spruce Grove mother said she’s received comments of gratitude, support, and shared concern – from not just parents, but others who must deal with frigid temperatures.

“This isn’t parents’ fault. We’re doing our best. We’re fighting these fights, we’re all fighting this fight,” Gagan said.

“They’re underestimating the weather, they’re underestimating how long they’re out in the weather, and they’re underestimating what the consequences and how serious the consequences really could be.”

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Amanda Anderson