Local

Yosemite employee's story of survival

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Yosemite National Park employee is recovering from intense surgery after spending four days in the wilderness with broken bones and an injured spine.

Jessica Garcia's family said she's recovering from the 12-hour spinal cord surgery at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno.

Garcia spent four days and three nights alone in the Yosemite wilderness after she fell more than 35 feet.

Jessica's family said she's a fighter, which is good because they are waiting on word to see if the surgery was successful before they know if she will ever be able to walk again.

The 23-year-old park employee was on her way back from a two-mile walk near her new job at the Wowona Hotel last Saturday when she slipped and fell.

Jessica landed on her hip. When she tried to get up she lost her footing again and fell further down the mountainside.

Despite a fractured pelvis and femur, a compressed spine and shattered vertebrae she dragged herself to get shelter from the elements.

"Each day she dragged herself," said James Garcia, Jessica's twin brother. "One night she slept underneath a tree. The last day she decided she's gotta keep going. She tried to climbing up, back up to see if it'd be easier to find her."

James Garcia talked with Action News outside her hospital room Friday afternoon. "She's hanging in, she's strong," he said.

Her strength was put to the test. Jessica had no food and little water while she was stranded. She even spotted her potential rescuers overhead and couldn't signal to them. "She heard the helicopters six times. She heard them go over her, but she knew that the colors she was in, she was completely camouflaged in the green and brown uniform," said Jessica's aunt, Christina Etcheverry.

Jessica was in so much pain she couldn't even yell for help. But rescuers would find her by what she left behind. Her wallet and ID fell from her pocket when she first slipped.

Hours later, rescue crews flew Jessica to the hospital. James said when he heard about the rescue his twin intuition told him Jessica will be okay.

"We're hanging in there, we're all supporting each other," James said. "We're hoping for the best. The most scary part is that she can be paralyzed."

The family has set up a trust fund to help Jessica pay for the mounting medical bills. The account is with Bank of the West. It's is under FBO Jessica Rose Garcia.

Jessica's family is taking turns sitting by her side since visitors are extremely limited in the intensive care unit.

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
yosemite national park, missing person, mariposa county, local, rick montanez
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