Posted: Feb 21, 2012 01:04 pm EST (Tina Sjogren) Mountaineers such as Juanito Oiarzabal and Edurne Pasaban had toes amputated after their K2 ascent. On Antarctica this season, stories of frostbite became more frequent.
100 years ago, frostbite was slowly but relentlessly eating away at the British explorers. Wrote Edward Evans (not Edgar, the one who died in the polar team) in his book, South with Scott:
Poor Oates's feet and hands were badly frostbitten—he constantly appealed to Wilson for advice. What should he do, what could he do? Poor, gallant soldier, we thought such worlds of him. Wilson could only answer "slog on, just slog on." (Evans, Edward R.G.R. South with Scott. Collins, 1938)
Wrote Robert Falcon Scott in his diary:
March 5: We none of us expected these terribly low temperatures, and of the rest of us Wilson is feeling them most; mainly, I fear, from his self-sacrificing devotion in doctoring Oates' feet. We cannot help each other, each has enough to do to take care of himself.
March 12: Oates not pulling much, and now with hands as well as feet pretty well useless.
March 18: My right foot has gone, nearly all the toes—two days ago I was proud possessor of best feet. These are the steps of my downfall.
March 19: All our feet are getting bad—Wilson's best, my right foot worst, left all right. There is no chance to nurse one's feet till we can get hot food into us. Amputation is the least I can hope for now, but will the trouble spread? That is the serious question.
Prevention - hydration and new tech such as the HEAT foot warming system can save limbs but what to do after a frostbite injury is a fact? Keep the area dry and administer antibiotics ASAP to prevent infection. It will take three months to know the full extent of the injury.
Here's something else: Regenerative medicine is gaining ground with leaps and bounds. Simple organs are grown (or printed) in the labs. This video, showing a man who regrew his fingertip, could point to a future for frostbite recovery.