Graphic: Frostbite can do lifelong damage

Posted at 6:28 PM, Dec 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-23 12:53:53-05

Please be advised, this video may be disturbing to some viewers. 

Cold temperatures raise the threat of frostbite. Denver7 reporter Kristen Skovira talked to a frostbite patient who says he knew he was cold, but had no idea how serious his situation was.

Frostbite like this is hard to look at. And for 44-year-old Jeremy Barnhart, it is even harder for him to believe.

“Just scared to death. It's like, what do you do? That's where my skill is,” he said. 

Barnhart works in the oil fields of Wyoming. He was in the middle of a 12-hour shift, fighting sub-freezing temperatures.

“Got some water in my boot. It got so cold that I wasn't noticing the pain anymore. It just became totally numb,” he said.

When he finally pulled his boots off, his feet looked normal but the pain came later. 

“Immediately the swelling started and the bottom of my foot just rounded,” he said.

Doctor Anne Wagner is a surgeon and burn specialist at the University of Colorado Hospital's burn center.

“Patients suffer a lot more nerve damage and so it's a very deep-seated pain that they generally live with for the rest of their life. Even after they heal up,” said Dr. Wagner.

With cases like this one, Dr. Wagner stresses the importance of time. The faster a patient gets treatment, the better chance they have of saving digits, even limbs.

“So getting the thrombolytic in 6 to 8 hours, we know the patient can have a pretty good outcome. The amputation almost falls to zero percent. He's at a strong risk right now to lose part of his feet or maybe even have a below the knee amputation,” she said.

It’s a reality Barnhart is still coming to terms with.

“If you know something is wrong, something is wrong. And you're going to have to live with it the rest of your life,” he said.