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Victim of bear attack rebuilds face

Posted: Friday, January 04, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Kenneth Horton has received star treatment by well-wishers and knowing smiles from those who have stood in his shoes.

Someday he'd like to smile about it.

''I feel like I'm a member of an elite club now. But it was a pretty rough initiation,'' said Horton, 52, who three weeks ago survived a brutal bear mauling on Admiralty Island.

The attack shattered the bones in his face and left him with nerve and tissue damage that made him unable to move the left side of his face.

On Friday, Horton was scheduled to undergo surgery in Seattle to repair the damage. Doctors plan to reconstruct his cheekbone using bones from his head and then use muscle and nerve tissue from his leg or arm to rebuild the lost tissue.

Doctors are optimistic he will regain most of the movement in his face, he said. Horton hopes to get his smile back this week, ''even though it might be kind of a Dick Cheney smile,'' he said.

The attack left him with a crushed left cheekbone and damaged muscles and nerves in his face. It was days after the attack before Horton could look at his face in the mirror and assess the damage.

''I seen a pretty torn-up me. It was king of like my face looks now -- a half smile and a half a nothing,'' Horton said.

He was rescued and taken to a Seattle Hospital where surgeons repaired some of the skin damage, but left more extensive reconstructive surgery for another time.

Since the attack, which garnered much media attention on the West Coast, Horton has been given celebrity treatment from strangers. Other victims of bear attacks have also contacted him and visited him in the hospital.

In the Seattle Airport, patrons bought him beers in the airport lounge and a ticket agent upgraded him to first class, he said. ''Everybody knew who I was. I was drawing a crowd,'' he said.

Horton said the attack has made him more sensitive and able to appreciate other people more.

''I just really appreciate people so much. I appreciate being alive,'' Horton said.

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A fund has been created for Kenneth Horton's medical bills at First Bank in Juneau.



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