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Woman who climbed icy Teller County slope after wreck heads home

By: matt steiner matt.steiner@gazette.com
May 3, 2013 Updated: May 3, 2013 at 7:20 pm
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photo - Sandy Mileto attempts to move her fingers after a serious crash Tuesday night stranded her in the cold off Highway 67, leaving her with frostbitten hands and feet. To make it back up to the road, Mileto had to make a long trek up a cliff with just one shoe. "It was either I lay here and die, or get up and just do it," Mileto said Thursday, April 25, 2013 while recovering in the hospital. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
Sandy Mileto attempts to move her fingers after a serious crash Tuesday night stranded her in the cold off Highway 67, leaving her with frostbitten hands and feet. To make it back up to the road, Mileto had to make a long trek up a cliff with just one shoe. "It was either I lay here and die, or get up and just do it," Mileto said Thursday, April 25, 2013 while recovering in the hospital. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette 

Sandy Mileto's smile outshone the sunlight coming through the window in her room at Memorial Hospital Central Friday afternoon.

The 43-year-old Lake George woman was preparing to go home after an ordeal that began when her Jeep launched off Highway 67 between Divide and Cripple Creek on April 23.

The best news for Mileto, however, came Wednesday when she was told she'd likely keep all of her toes that were blackened with frostbite after she climbed about 1,500 feet up a steep, snowy slope to safety after the crash while enduring single-digit temperatures.

'Right now, I'm going home with 10 fingers and 10 toes, ' Mileto said. 'It's a miracle. '

Mileto's father Ed Haynik was at her bedside Friday as she wiggled the digits on her right foot and showed off three toes poking out from gauze on her left.

She was told April 25 that doctors could be forced to amputate the front part of her foot amputated.

'They said, 'We're going to do what we can to save it,' ' Mileto said of a surgeon's initial comments.

'Which means it doesn't look very good, ' she said.

'I told them I didn't climb that slope for five hours just to lose my foot. '

Mileto was moved from Pikes Peak Regional Hospital in Woodland Park on April 26 to begin hyperbaric oxygen therapy for her injuries at Memorial.

Over the past week, Mileto underwent nine, 90-minute Hyperbaric chamber sessions.

The therapy is designed to bombard the patient's wounds with high pressure oxygen. It dissolves in the tissue and the blood stream 'and helps to nourish the tissue, ' said Susan Ridge, a nurse who helped administer the treatments.

Ridge said patients with frostbite like Mileto's usually have 14 treatments. But after nine, doctors decided the therapy had done its job and gave Mileto the good news.

The nurse began treating Mileto as soon as she made the journey by ambulance from Teller County to the hospital on Boulder Street in Colorado Springs. Ridge said she was 'very optimistic with what I saw ' on April 26.

'There's still a chance I could lose that big toe (on the left foot), ' Mileto said Friday. 'It's up to me now. '

She's pledged to go straight home where a hospital bed is waiting for her. Mileto said she's going to act like she's still hospitalized and do everything possible to make sure her 'little piggies ' survive.

Mileto is left with 'a big question mark ' about her crash that happened just after 11 p.m. on April 23.

She doesn't remember going off the Highway 67 near mile marker 61. She has no recollection of mowing down trees or jumping boulders larger than her Jeep sport utility vehicle.

Mileto remembers climbing the slope after losing one shoe. And she does recall making it to the highway just before 5 a.m. Wednesday when a Teller County Sheriff's deputy happened to be driving by.

During the horrific trek, she slid backward with almost every step, while pausing once in a while to huddle beneath a blanket she pulled from the wreckage.

'What's the purpose? ' Mileto asked. 'Why was I so lucky? '

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