OGDEN -- When Dr. Peter Clemens first saw Will Calton at Ogden Regional Medical Center's Hyperbaric and Wound Treatment Center for frostbite on his toes, he was prepared to call in the skin graft surgeons.
Three weeks later, however, Calton's toes turned from black to a healthy shade of pink, allowing him to return to his life as usual.
How did he get that frostbite in the first place?
In the spring, Calton fell while descending Mount Everest. Weeks of bad weather had created a bottleneck of about 150 climbers on May 19, delaying Calton's ascent up the mountain.
"I knew I was starting to get frostbite, but what do you do?" said Calton, of Ogden. "After spending all this time and money, do you turn around for a few cold toes? I decided to keep going and figured I would eventually be able to warm my toes back up."
But on his way down the mountain Calton collapsed from exhaustion and fell, suffering a concussion, broken ribs, a collapsed lung, kidney and liver damage, severe bruising and severe frostbite on five of his toes. He was cut from the rope line of other climbers, and his backpack was thrown off to the side.
But he was not completely abandoned. His friend, Tom Burton, along with others, "bullied" him into continuing his trek until help arrived.
"They kept yelling at me, and I kept wondering why everyone was so mad at me," Calton said. "But they had to keep me up and going. I would walk for a little bit and then collapse, and they would yell at me to get back up."
A helicopter rescued Calton at 22,000 feet above sea level, one of the highest helicopter rescues in history. Calton was taken to Ciwec Clinic in Katmandu, where he recovered enough to return home to Ogden.
Still injured and at risk of severe nerve damage and possible amputation of his toes, Calton was referred to Clemens, the director of the Hyperbaric and Wound Center, for treatment.
"I knew the benefits of oxygen, and knew I was damaged from top to bottom," Calton said. "I was confident this would help."
Hypberbaric oxygen therapy is still in the investigational stage when it comes to frostbite, Clemens said, but several studies and case reports have shown success.
The therapy uses oxygen at a level higher than atmospheric pressure. The patient is placed inside a chamber that delivers 100 percent pure oxygen.
"We saw Will 17 days after his initial injuries and treated him 90 minutes every day for three weeks at a pressure of 21/2 atmospheres," Clemens said.
"It was just amazing to see how his body was responding," Clemens said. "His toes went from black to purple, then red and pink. We knew if we could wake up the cells, we could save his toes."
Calton said that when he first began treatment, his toes felt dead.
During the treatment, his toes began to tingle and then he started to feel pain, which was a sign things were "waking up."
Today, Calton said he is back to work and has been running every day for two months.
"I feel very lucky," he said. "It's incredible how the treatment has helped me to heal, not just my toes but everything."
Calton said he would go back and climb Everest again, despite everything that happened. He also said his days of adventure aren't over, even though his wife says otherwise.
In the meantime, Clemens said Calton's story will be published in an upcoming medical journal.
"It's an incredible story of the human spirit and of survival," he said. "And we're very excited to report the results of our treatment."