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Hard to top this

Cliff Thompson
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyClay Carlton, at his barber shop Timberline Barbers in West Vail Monday, will donate a kidney to a sick friend after tests showed him to be a perfect match. This is unusual for non-family members.
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VAIL – Most guys wouldn’t hesitate to give a buddy in need some cash, a couch to sleep on or even their car. Some of those male bonds forged during early adulthood are durable.But one Vail businessman is redefining generosity. He’s going under the knife to give a kidney to a friend who’s on a 5-year-long organ donation list. Perhaps appropriately enough, it will happen June 6, D-Day. Clay Carlton, 55, who owns Timberline Barbers in West Vail, is putting down his scissors and clippers for a month to help a friend. He’ll undergo an operation in Michigan in which surgeons will harvest one of his healthy kidneys and transplant it into his diabetic friend, Mike Aeling. It will give his friend a gift that can’t be beat: Life itself. Diabetes often damages kidneys, which filter and purify blood.Old buddiesAeling and Carlton met in Summit County a quarter century ago where they ran businesses in Silverthorne and became fast friends. They drank beer, had lots of laughs, got in trouble and did all the things guys do when they’re friends, they said.

Aeling, 59 left Colorado in 1990 to work with famed golf course designer Perry Dye, and last year developed Type II diabetes. When he told Carlton he needed a new kidney, but would have to wait nearly five years to rise to the top of a transplant list, Carlton said he’d go and get tested for compatibility immediately. Against the sizable odds, Carlton proved an excellent candidate for organ donation. “People don’t seem to understand why I’m doing it,” he says. “I’ve been lucky and have had good health all my life. I know you can live and function just fine with one kidney.”Aeling now undergoes dialysis to purify his blood. Because he’s a big man – 6-foot-4 and large-bodied, his treatments take nearly twice as long as the average. “I can hear it in his voice,” said Carlton. “It’s just wearing him down. He was about ready to give up. If somebody didn’t step forward I didn’t think he would be around much longer. Based on that, it wasn’t that hard of a decision.”Big thanksThe sacrifice and generosity isn’t lost on Aeling or his wife Elizabeth. “What Clay is doing is very, very special. That’s a true friend,” Aeling said. “It’s giving me a second chance at life. That’s the kind of guy he is.””it’s an amazing gift,” Elizabeth adds. “He decided his friend needed some help and took it upon himself to do the testing.”

Carlton said he can’t point out anything special in his upbringing in the Commerce City area north of Denver that led to his generosity, other than the lessons demonstrated by his parents.”They were always very giving people,” he says.Surprisingly, Carlton says he’s unconcerned about the surgery and recovery. Instead he’s more worried about covering the income lost from a month of not working. While the cost of transplant surgery and hospitalization will be covered by Aeling’s insurance, the cost of lost wages, won’t be. “I don’t really have savings,” he says. “I’m just going to have to bite the bullet.”Still, he says he’s not worried about going under the knife.”It’s a standard surgery that has been repeated and perfected,” he says. “It’s going to hurt when it’s done. Then it’s a done deal. It’s not everybody I’d do it for.”Generous record

Monday morning Carlton returned from the last of what was a battery of blood tests to double and triple check his compatibility.”I’ve had three or four blood tests,” he says. “I’m type B negative. His is B positive. As long as we’re both B, that’s okay.”Had he not been a compatible donor for Aeling, Carlton even offered to donate a kidney to another person if it would move Aeling to the top of the transplant list, Carlton says.”It think if they did something like that they would get more donors,” he says.It’s not the first time Carlton has donated something. Earlier this year he founded Cigars for the Troops, after reading that troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere would appreciate some premium smokes. Carlton rolls cigars both as a hobby and a business, and he started a nonprofit organization to ship up to 10,000 cigars a month to the troops.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.com.Vail Colorado


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