The Israeli who rescued a fellow climber on Mount Everest may lose his fingers due to the ordeal.
Nadav Ben-Yehuda,24, carried Aydin Irmak, 46, for hours to a lower-elevation base after finding him incapacitated by the extreme conditions. Both suffered frostbite and their fingers are at the risk of being amputated.
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Despite the hardship and the fact that he had to give up his dream of being the youngest Israeli to conquer world's highest peak, Ben-Yehuda said on Monday that he has no regrets.
"A person's life, any person's life, is more valuable than anything," he said. "I knew that I might lose my fingers, but that wasn't something I could worry about because that would be immoral."
He noted that his doctors are somewhat optimistic about the fate of his digits.
"So far they have had to take off some skin and flesh, but they haven't cut off any bones, so all my fingers are still whole," he said.
'Recovery takes time'
The incident occurred over a week ago, during a chaotic few-day period in which four climbers died on their way down from the summit amid a traffic jam of more than 200 people who were rushing to reach the world's highest peak as the weather deteriorated.
"Aydin, wake up! Wake up!" Ben-Yehuda recalled saying when he found his friend in the darkness. Irmak, he said, had been returning from the summit but collapsed without an oxygen supply, a flashlight and a rucksack. Ben-Yehuda, who developed a friendship with Irmak before the climb, had delayed his own ascent by a day in hopes of avoiding the bottleneck of climbers heading for the top. Only 300 meters separated between him and the peak when he found his pale, gaunt buddy.
There have been periodic tales of people bypassing stricken climbers as they seek to fulfill a lifelong dream and reach the summit of Everest, but Ben-Yehuda said his decision to abandon his goal of reaching the top and help Irmak was "automatic."
The two climbers kept each other company until Ben-Yehuda was taken to Israel for continued treatment. Irmak remains in Nepal.
"He wants to meet up at a later date, and I suppose that we will," Ben-Yehuda said.
Ben-Yehuda is receiving continual care at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center while his body struggles to reacclimatize.
"I'm glad that the doctors are optimistic," he said. "Recovery takes time. I'm not even talking about getting the feeling back in my fingers, I'm just hoping not to lose them. I believe everything will be fine."
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