November 18, 2008; News 12 at 6

AUGUSTA - An Augusta woman contends in a federal lawsuit that pig blood got in her eye when she was an inmate working at the state prison farm in Alto. She says while serving her time, she castrated pigs and gave them shots with no training, and she believes that's what caused her to go blind in one eye.

Now, she's suing, and she's explaining her lawsuit only to News 12.

Sherry Curtis admits she deserved to go to jail, but she says she never deserved what happened to her there. "It's painful. A lot of times, I do things just to keep from crying. It's painful."

She claims it is painful both physically and emotionally. You can't tell from looking at her, but Sherry is blind in one eye. She also has scars you can see. She showed us a rash she says never goes away.

Sherry says "I had no problem serving my time. I served my time to the door. I maxed out, but I didn't ask for this to happen."

On October 25, 2006, Sherry was at the Lee Arrendale State Prison in Alto, Georgia. She was in the middle of a sentence for forgery and a probation violation. That day, like every other, she tells News 12 she left her cell to go to the prison farm. She explains, "Either you do your detail, or you go straight to lock down. I couldn't afford that."

So she went to the pig barn where she says "you have to cut their tails off, clip their teeth, castrate them, administer them shots."

Meredith Anderson: "Had you ever done this before?"
Sherry Curtis: "No, I had never done this before. That was my first time ever doing that."
Meredith Anderson: "Did they train you for this?"
Sherry Curtis: "No, they didn't."

Sherry also claims in her lawsuit she had no protective clothing so when a pig bled all over her "here it is; it's hot. I'm sweaty, and this blood is in my pores."

It wasn't until Sherry got back behind the prison gates that she noticed anything was going wrong. She waited seven days before she told anyone. She didn't want any inmates to know she believed she was going blind.

As soon as she spoke up, the tests began. Medical records from the Department of Corrections show she went through a number of different tests.

Sherry was frustrated because "everything, every blood test they did on me came up negative, and he said what do you do on the prison grounds? What are your detail? And when I told him that I worked out on the farm, he said, okay we're gonna do another test."

That's when Sherry says she finally got her answer. She was worried, and she tells News 12 "when they told be I had a disease called brucellosis. I was devastated. I was devastated."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, brucellosis is a disease, caused by bacteria, that affects cattle, deer, elk, pigs, dogs, and several other animals. Humans can catch it from contaminated animals. It causes flu-like symptoms: fever, sweats, headaches, back pain, and weakness. You can also have severe infections of the central nervous systems or lining of the heart.

Experts with the C.D.C say it's pretty much wiped-out in the United States, but they admit 100 to 200 cases happen each year in America, and Sherry is convinced, she's one of those cases.

However, a state expert at the University of Georgia disagrees.

Meredith Anderson: "There's no way possible?"
Dr. Susan Sanchez: "I don't think so."

Coming up, in Part 2 of our exclusive investigation, we hear more from that expert in brucellosis at UGA and take a closer look at Sherry's medical records. We'll also continue our look at the lawsuit.

Sherry is suing because she says she wants other inmates to get protective clothing. Our exclusive investigation continues Wednesday at 6 o'clock.


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