Barber back in the saddle " finally |

Barber back in the saddle " finally

Cliff Thompson
NWS Clay Carlton SM 7-26

WEST VAIL ” Clay Carlton is now back to work full-time and that’s good news.

“I’m 100 percent better,” he said. “I made a comeback.”

He’s the owner of Timberline Barbers in West Vail who in June donated a kidney to a friend suffering from diabetes in Grand Rapids, Mich. That act of generosity was followed by surgical complications, two more surgeries and enough pain and torment to test the forbearance of Mother Theresa.

When surgeons harvested his healthy kidney they inadvertently stitched his colon shut when they closed the incision. The resulting stoppage made Carlton very ill and it took doctors nearly two weeks to discover what his problem was.

Carlton underwent a second surgery to correct that problem and a week later ” after spending nearly a month in the hospital ” returned to Colorado to recover. Four days later his incision ruptured ” it has become infected ” and he had a third surgery to clean up the infection.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

He was hospitalized for two more days and was given intravenous antibiotics. That did the trick, he said.

“My color came back,” he said. “I was pretty green.”

Six weeks after he donated the kidney, with his incisions almost completely healed, he’s beginning to appreciate what happened. “I was a little naive,” he said. “I found out there are no standard procedures. Things happen no matter how many time they’ve been done.

“Any time you go under a knife,” he added, “there are serious complications that can arise.”

But he’s steadfast in his belief that he did the right thing. “I wouldn’t have changed a thing,” he said. “If it had gone as smooth as it had been presented, it could have been an asset for getting more people to donate.”

In the mean time Carlton’s friend who received the kidney, Mike Aeling, felt immediately better, with just a little post-surgical pain.

“His energy level improved 100 percent,” said Carlton.

It was a good thing because Aeling and his wife Beth were able to help Carlton when he suffered through the complications and second surgery.

Now Carlton is concentrating on forming a nonprofit organization to support another mission of his ” Cigars to the Troops. He hopes to send up to 10,000 cigars a month to people in the armed forces serving overseas.

Carlton got the idea to turn his hobby into a mission after reading an article in Cigar Aficionado Magazine about how troops in Iraq and Afghanistan would appreciate some good cigars. It was a solo effort before he donated the kidney, but now he’s got some help.

Mike Aeling is promoting the cigar effort to his friends in a sizable construction union in the Midwest.

“He’s opened up a whole new territory and donation are coming in from Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and the whole area,” Carlton said.

Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or

Vail, Colo.

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