On the other side, Garcia inserted the metal nozzle of a 90-pounds-per-square-inch compressed-air hose and blasted the pigs' brains into a pink slurry. One head every three seconds. A high-pressure burst, a fine rosy mist, and the slosh of brains slipping through a drain hole into a catch bucket. (Some workers say the goo looked like Pepto-Bismol; others describe it as more like a lumpy strawberry milkshake.) When the 10-pound barrel was filled, another worker would come to take the brains for shipping to Asia, where they are used as a thickener in stir-fry..
Tasks at the head table are literally numbing. The steady hum of the automatic Whizard knives gives many workers carpal tunnel syndrome. For eight hours, Garcia stood, slipping heads onto the brain machine's nozzle, pouring the glop into the drain, then dropping the empty skulls down a chute. By early December, Garcia would return home spent, his back and head throbbing. But this was more than ordinary exhaustion or some winter virus. On December 11, Garcia awoke to find he couldn't walk. His legs felt dead, paralyzed. His family rushed him to the Austin Medical Center.
Doctors there sent Garcia to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, about an hour away. By the time he arrived, he was running a high fever and complaining of piercing headaches. He underwent a battery of exams, including MRIs of his head and back. Every test revealed neurological abnormalities, most importantly a severe spinal-cord inflammation, apparently caused by an autoimmune response. It was as if his body was attacking his nerves.
By Christmas, Garcia had been bedridden for two weeks, and baffled doctors feared he might be suicidal. They sent a psychiatrist to prepare him for life in a wheelchair.
Soon after Daniel was ill 16 other employees on the same line came down with the same symptoms. All of them were eventually sent to the Mayo Clinic, where the best diagnosis for all of them was severe neurological damage. 6 of the 16 were conveniently fired for being here illegally. The other 10 learned not to admit anything because of what they had seen their co workers go through. Eventually those 10 did receive a settlement of approx. $12,500 each with continuing medical coverage, however 0 of the 10 have ever recouped to their status before these problems started.
It's scary how fast your life can change. Take nothing for granted, be aware of your surroundings and be aware of your co workers--it just may save your life!