Beat The Odds: Mitch Ristau

Posted at: 02/15/2013 7:21 AM
Updated at: 02/15/2013 6:54 PM
By: Brianna Long

(ABC 6 NEWS) - Mitch Ristau is a senior at Fillmore Central High School. He’s involved in FFA, the school radio show, and he’s a lineman on the football team. Every day after school, Mitch helps out on the family farm.

“I like doing things with my hands. I'd go mad if I had to sit at a desk all day and sit and stare at a computer or something,” said Mitch.

Those hands do everything from feeding the cows, to helping repair farm equipment. But on one cold November day back in 2008, those routine tasks turned out to be anything but.

"I walked over to the silo where my dad was and he asked me if I'd go up the silo to give the unloader a push. And so I went up there . When I got up there, I hollered down that I was ready. So he turned it on. I walked up and pushed right behind the augers and it started to move. So I turned around and as I turned around, the button hole on my boot caught the bolt or whatever and it broke my tibia and fibia, pulling it forward. And then as it wrapped around my foot and ankle got folded underneath my knee and it broke pretty much every bone in my foot and ankle,” remembers Mitch.

“I thought I was gonna die. I thought this thing was gonna kill me,” said Mitch.
Finally that auger stopped moving, and Mitch’s dad and uncle helped him out of the silo.

After a very long ambulance ride to Rochester, they finally made it to St. Marys Hospital.

"They induced me to a coma for a week and a half,” said Mitch.

When he woke up, Mitch learned that doctors had to amputate part of his right leg. His first thought wasn’t about what he lost, but how to move forward.

“Just thinking, I’m gonna have to learn how to walk again somehow,” he said.
Less than six months after his accident, and with help of a prosthetic leg, Mitch was taking his first steps.

"It was really weird. It felt like I was just gonna fall over. But you just had to trust it. Its almost, you consider it like you watching your kid take his first step and you're scared that they're gonna tip over and get hurt and whatever. That was going through my head, I don't want to fall right now."

Mitch’s English teacher, Gerri Neilson, nominated him for the Beat the Odds Scholarship because, she says, beating the odds, is exactly what Mitch has done.

"He has never looked back. He's always gone forward, which has been really good,” said Neilson.

It’s not only walking that Mitch has accomplished. In addition to re-learning how to do everyday tasks, he had another goal in mind.

"I said I want to be able to play football next year. Well the next year, I was able to play the full season pretty much every game and then year after that, same thing,” said Mitch.

“If someone was going to come back and reach that goal, it was gonna be Mitch,” said Mensick.

It’s that determination that, those around him say, will help Mitch continue to succeed in the future.

"Next year I plan on going to Emmetsburg Iowa for Diesel mechanics program,” said Mitch.

“He’s gonna know that whatever he comes across that's a challenge, he can beat it and succeed for sure,” said Nielson.

“Mitch is a very determined young man. When he puts his mind to something, he's going to make sure he gets it accomplished,” said Mensick.

And as for that accident that took part of his leg; Mitch says that’s all it took.

“Every day there's a possibility something's gonna happen. But you can't think about that all the time. You just gotta think about, oh, I'm here today. I might as well go do something. You can't just sit around for the rest of you."