Jeanne Horton: Search-and-rescue volunteer recovering after dangerous mishap on assignment
October 23, 2008
Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles for The Women of Tahoe, a special section of theTribune celebrating South Shore women who are a vital part of our community.
Three years ago, Midwest native Jeanne Horton knew it was time to act on her longtime attraction to the granite peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
“I’ve always been drawn to the mountains,” Horton said. “I thought, if I don’t make a move and come out, it’ll never happen.”
Since then, making moves has been a regular part of the Horton’s life at the South Shore.
Skiing, sailing, mountain-bike riding, backpacking and all-terrain vehicle riding are among the ingredients in Horton’s “Tahoe recipe for fun.”
“I just kind of do it all,” Horton said.
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A physician’s assistant with Tahoe Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology Center, Horton became an Emergency Medical Technician shortly after moving to the lake.
She undertook the additional medical training so she could volunteer with the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office search-and-rescue team.
The nearly 40 search-and-rescue assignments she has been on since then have been rewarding, Horton said, recalling her first find – a couple who became lost while hiking near Wrights Lake Road.
“It was a very powerful experience to find them in the dark,” Horton said. “They were cold, and they were thirsty. It was very gratifying.”
But in July, the rescuer became the rescued when an on-the-job accident nearly killed Horton.
Search-and-rescue volunteers hit a power line as they set up a portable radio-repeater antenna to aid in the search for two missing hikers near the High Meadow trailhead.
Twenty thousand volts from the line ran down the antenna, through a search-and-rescue vehicle and into Horton.
“That stopped my heart, and I fell over like a tree,” Horton said.
Volunteers performed CPR to revive Horton, and a CALSTAR helicopter flew her to the UC Davis Burn Center for treatment.
Horton suffered second- and third-degree burns on her hands, arms and face. Doctors also had to amputate part of Horton’s left foot.
After undergoing four surgeries in five weeks, Horton was released from the hospital in August. She has been attending rehabilitation to gain the strength to return to work and the recreational activities she loves.
“I work at it every day,” Horton said. “There will be some limitation, but it’s something I’m working on.”
Horton credited “lots of good friends” with helping her get through the accident and aiding her recovery. One of those friends returned the compliment.
“She’s got a lot of guts to go through this,” said South Lake Tahoe resident Lynn Woodward. “She has a lot of determination to get through it and be back to a normal life.”