A Savannah woman says she lost her career because she did her job.
Sharmira Clark worked at Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah as a forensic services technician. She'd been working in mental health for 16 years and was the first line of defense in patient care at Georgia Regional.
She says in February the hospital's defenses broke down, landing her in the hospital.
"I lost 16 years in a second," Clark said.
She worked in the Forensics Unit, which houses criminals with mental health problems. One of the patients was having a bad day, Clark said.
The nurse wanted to order medication to calm the woman down. The woman grabbed a felt-tipped pen, Clark said, "And she charged across the desk to get to the nurse."
Clark said she threw herself between the patient and the nurse and was stabbed hard in the head with that pen.
"The top piece of it was stuck in my head," she said.
On top of the puncture wound, Clark ended up with a concussion and damage to her spine.
"Some days I can't move my neck at all," she said.
Clark has equipment at home to pull and straighten her spine, but doctors said she'll need surgery before heading back to the forensics unit.
"I can work," Clark said. "But they don't want me to work with the type of patients that I work with."
Two months after the attack, insult was added to injury, Clark said, when she got a letter denying her request for a continued leave of absence and terminating her from her job.
Clark said hospital officials told her, "'You've been out on workman's comp too long. We're going to have to let you go.'
"Simple as that," she said.
Clark lost her health insurance with her job. She still gets treated for the injury under workman's compensation. But not for her underlying diabetes.
Now she's going without insulin. Workman's comp will pay for her surgery, Clark said, but not for any diabetic complications surgery might cause. Right now, Clark is facing the real possibility that she won't be able to return to the work she loved.
"After surgery, this is really it," she said.
WTOC reached out to Clark's employer, the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, for their side of the story.
They provided an emailed statement.
"In that this inquiry relates to what would be an internal personnel matter, it would be inappropriate for DBHDD to comment further at this time," the email read.
Clark said all she wants to do is get well and get back to work, doing the tough and dirty work, with hard patients. Is not a job for everyone Clark says, but it's more than a job for her.
"It's my life. It's my livelihood. It's my career."
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