Woman lives with lingering effects of alleged Daikin chemical exposure

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DECATUR, Ala. — A woman is blaming the Daikin-America plant in Decatur for injuries she sustained after an alleged chemical exposure two years ago.

This after another alleged chemical exposure took the life of a longtime employee, Wesley Rusk, this week. Rusk worked at the plant for 20 years and died Tuesday. He was being treated at Vanderbilt Medical Center from complications due to a chemical exposure that happened on the job back on July 2.

Rusk’s death this week prompted further investigation into past incidents at the plant, which is now under investigation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Darby Dockery, a 37-year-old mother, and her husband were both contracted workers at the plant, but Darby says while she was on the job a hazardous chemical exposure left her struggling to stay alive with lungs that hardly function on their own now.

Dockery now requires the use of a concentrator, oxygen tank, and tubes to get her through her days.

“It’s hard,” Dockery said. “It’s really hard. I can’t just jump up and run out. I’m just kind of… I’m stuck.”

Dockery says she was contracted to work at Daikin as a “firewatcher,” and received only about two hours of training total at the plant, where she said she risked her life.

On the day everything changed, she said she could breathe initially, then the struggle began. She knew something was wrong.

“I told my supervisor,” Dockery said. “It kind of got shrugged off. By the end of the day, I really couldn’t breathe. By that night, I was gasping. I had to go to the hospital.”

She saw doctors in Decatur, but she says they sent her home with no relief, treatment, or answers. All the while, Dockery’s husband, Bobby Humphrey, says he still had no clue what happened to his wife at work.

Days later he took Dockery to Crestwood Medical Center where she was found to have critically low oxygen levels and was transferred to UAB, where she stayed in the intensive care unit (ICU) for months.

“The doctors told me that neither contract service nor Daikin would tell them anything,” said Humphrey. “They wouldn’t speak on it at all. Even though it could’ve saved her life or you know, it could’ve helped her.”

Dockery says most days it is hard to remain hopeful.

“I feel like it’s never going to get any better,” she said. “I’m just so mad.”

Her husband claims that to this day Daikin has never taken responsibility.

“Holding back the truth didn’t help none at all,” said Humphrey. “For them to have no shame and not worry about it, and blow her off like it’s nothing, that’s not fair.”

Dockery has been told that she only has five years to live. That’s only if she receives a double lung transplant. She’s currently on the transplant list.

She says her biggest worry is leaving her children.

Dockery’s attorney, Randy Ferguson, says their case against Daikin is schedule to go to trial next spring.

Ferguson says he plans to file an additional suit against Daikin, on behalf of another contractor who worked alongside Dockery in that same timeframe, and later died from his alleged exposure.

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