Ogden man's dramatic rescue on Mt. Everest may lead to medical gains closer to home

Published: Thursday, Aug. 30 2012 8:21 p.m. MDT

When the blackened toes just wouldn't heal, Calton sought help locally, at the Ogden Regional Medical Center's Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center.

Hyperbaric treatment for frostbite is still investigational, said Dr. Peter Clemens, director of services at the center. The atmospheric pressure chambers are typically used to treat diabetics or those with carbon monoxide poisoning and sometimes used to nurture stubborn post-operative wounds or bone infections. Insurance companies also don't cover the treatment for experimental use.

Despite Calton's injuries, Clemens said the climber was in tremendous shape and could benefit from the treatment.

"When you're exposed to 100 percent oxygen, really good things can happen to your body," Clemens said, fully expecting Calton to lose some tissue from his severely frostbitten toes. It had been 17 days since coming off Everest.

"The sooner you receive hyperbaric treatment, the better," Clemens said. "We get in and we save those cells from the ultimate problem of death."

Calton spent three weeks, 90 minutes each day, under two-and-a-half times the amount of pressure found in the normal atmosphere. He said the "dive," which mimics the pressure found by going under sea water and facilitates the movement of pure oxygen through the blood, is warm and humid, as well as quiet.

Calton's quick recovery, Clemens said, has been "astounding" and will likely end up in medical journals as scientific evidence supporting the treatment.

Though he nearly lost his life, and ultimately, his toes, Calton said he'd "go back (to Everest) in a heartbeat."

"I think everyone picks their poison. Some people golf every Saturday or Sunday, twice a week," he said. "I love mountaineering and climbing mountains."

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