Isaac Kolstad’s long road to recovery took a big step forward Friday with news that the former college football player has been discharged from inpatient care, five months after being severely beaten in Mankato.
Kolstad’s wife, Molly, broke the news on Kolstad’s Caring Bridge page, posting a joyful entry titled “We are outta here!!!”
“It is with a full heart that I update you all that today Isaac was discharged from inpatient care! After 5 months of being confined to a facility, of sleeping in a twin sized hospital bed, of reporting daily to nurses, doctors, therapists, and aides, Isaac is finally released and free to go home,” Molly Kolstad wrote.
“He and his entire family are incredibly excited to take this huge step in Isaac’s recovery and start the process of transitioning back to family life.”
The case captured the attention of Minnesotans, many of whom have followed Kolstad’s painstaking progress in the media. The progress has been largely detailed on Caring Bridge and in other social media through his loved ones’ postings.
At first, it wasn’t known whether the former linebacker for Minnesota State, Mankato, would survive the violence in downtown Mankato early that Sunday. Police found him unconscious in front of Blue Bricks bar after closing. Physicians said brain damage could be permanent.
Although Kolstad has been released from inpatient care, his wife wrote Friday that Isaac “continues to work on his speech, right arm, and cognitive comprehension the most. He is putting longer sentences together, expanding his vocabulary every day, and using his right arm to complete tasks like eating and dressing.”
Although he graduated in 2013, last month the Mankato native made an emotional return, leading the Mavericks onto the field before the season opener.
That was just another step in his recovery from the May 11 beating. Charged are Philip Nelson, a former starting quarterback at the University of Minnesota who had recently transferred to Rutgers, and Trevor Shelley of St. Peter. Both suspects are 21. Kolstad’s injuries included a fractured skull, brain shifting, lung trauma and other injuries.
Nelson and Shelley are charged with first- and third-degree assault and could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted in Blue Earth County District Court.
According to the criminal complaints, during an argument Shelley allegedly punched Kolstad, knocking him out. Nelson allegedly kicked Kolstad in the head as he lay on the pavement.
In critical condition, he was in his first days of a medically induced coma at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, when his family issued a public statement saying that Kolstad had strong faith and love for his family, and that he was a hard worker and contributor to his community.
Less than two weeks after the beating, thousands rallied to show their support when Kolstad’s employer, Fastenal of Mankato, held a fundraiser. Hundreds of donated items, including autographed sports items, were snapped up in live and silent auctions.
Family attorney Ken White estimated that as many as 3,000 people attended, many wearing T-shirts with the hashtag #22strong — a reference to Kolstad’s jersey number.
In emergency surgery to relieve life-threatening swelling on his brain in May, surgeons removed a significant amount of Kolstad’s brain tissue that was no longer viable, his family said at the time.
Later that month, Kolstad underwent a second major surgery, a tracheotomy to help him breathe while on life support.
Speech therapists placed a speaking valve on Kolstad’s trachea. During rehab, his friends and family encouraged him to talk, according to Mike Fleming, Kolstad’s brother-in-law.
“The return of speech will certainly take time, but if he wanted to say something, he could,” Fleming said then.
One day during physical therapy in June, Kolstad managed to get out of bed and stood up. It was the first time in months.
That progress made headlines far beyond Mankato.
In her Friday update, Molly Kolstad said the past five months have been tough, but “we are so thankful that Isaac has finally reached a point where being in his own home is safe again. He can’t wait to sleep in his own bed!
“Miracles happen and dreams come true.”
Joy Powell contributed to this report.