Lo­cal par­ents con­cerned af­ter nee­dles found at school bus stop

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY DANIEL MACEACHERN

Sev­eral Carbonear chil­dren un­der­went blood test­ing as a pre­cau­tion last week af­ter used in­sulin nee­dles were dis­cov­ered at a school bus stop.

Vir­ginia Earle, whose five-yearold son Cameron catches the school bus with four other chil­dren across the street from their home on High Road North, said her son ac­tu­ally saw the nee­dles Tues­day morn­ing and told his grand­fa­ther, but the fam­ily didn’t think much of it.

“He’s five. I didn’t take him se­ri­ous,” said Earle. Nev­er­the­less, the next morn­ing, she walked across the street with her son to the bus stop to look for her­self, and found three nee­dles.

“I was like, ‘Oh my god, what do I do?’ Then I grabbed my son, I come across the road and got a glove and a Zi­ploc bag,” she said, adding she put the nee­dles in the bag and started mak­ing phone calls.

Earle said she called pub­lic health, poi­son con­trol and the po­lice.

“Poi­son con­trol told me to call pub­lic health care, pub­lic health care told me to call the (town) coun­cil,” she said, adding that her fa­therin-law, who works for town coun­cil, sug­gested she call the po­lice, which he said was what hap­pened af­ter an­other re­cent nee­dle dis­cov­ery in a hard­ware store park­ing lot.

Earle said the po­lice asked her if there was blood in the nee­dles. Earle said there wasn’t, and the of­fi­cer asked her to dis­pose of the nee­dles care­fully her­self, in a punc­ture-proof con­tainer.

How­ever, Earle’s sis­ter-in-law Laura Baker — a nurse — looked at the nee­dles her­self and found there was blood in them. Earle called the po­lice back to let them know, but got the same re­sponse.

“ They just told me just to get rid of them. There was noth­ing they could do.”

Earle said an older child at the bus stop told her the nee­dles had been there for a cou­ple of days, and that there was a fourth one some­where. Earle said the po­lice of­fi­cer she spoke to told her some­one would come by to find the fourth nee­dle later that day, but no one came.

“ The older girl told me a cou­ple of the chil­dren had them in their hands,” said Earle.

Af­ter Cameron re­turned from school, Earle ques­tioned him fur­ther, and said his cousin han­dled the nee­dle and pulled the stop­per out. His cousin said she hadn’t, but an­other girl had. “We were all get­ting con­flict­ing sto­ries,” said Earle.

For his part, Cameron said he picked up the nee­dle, and then it was han­dled by a cou­ple of the other chil­dren, and then one stomped on it.

“And then we went on the bus, and I told the bus driver,” he said.

Baker called an­other par­ent, and then the hospi­tal, where it was sug­gested all the chil­dren come in to get tested for hepati­tis and HIV.

“I’m still wor­ried, but I’m con­fi­dent that he wasn’t pricked or any­thing. I don’t think any of the chil­dren were,” she said. “ We just done it as a pre­cau­tion.”

Baker said they were in­sulin nee­dles that had likely been used to in­ject drugs. “They had blood in the sy­ringe con­tain­ers, so there­fore we knew that they were con­tam­i­nated IV drug user nee­dles,” she said, not­ing that nee­dles used to in­ject in­sulin are not in­serted into veins.

The next day, Thurs­day, po­lice still had not been out to the scene, and a call to the town of­fice from Baker had not been re­turned. Calls to the hospi­tal the pre­vi­ous day turned up phone num­bers for poi­son con­trol and com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases spe­cial­ists, nei­ther of which were able to help Earle, who felt the only sup­port she re­ceived was from the pub­lic health nurse, who called a few times to see how things were go­ing. She said the pub­lic health nurse told her it’s the town coun­cil’s job to make sure the nee­dles were prop­erly dis­posed of, and a spokes­woman for East­ern Health, El­iz­a­beth Strange, con­firmed to The Com­pass that it’s coun­cil’s re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“To me, it’s the po­lice’s job,” said Earle. “There’s still a nee­dle across the road, in a snow­bank.” Earle said she tried to find it, but doesn’t want to dig through a snow­bank looking for a used nee­dle.

But when the Com­pass called Trin­ity Con­cep­tion RCMP, they couldn’t find any re­ports of nee­dles be­ing found.

“I hate to say this, but I can’t find where she called in,” said San­dra Nose­wor­thy, who dis­patches calls at the de­tach­ment. “That’s not say­ing she didn’t call in, but I can’t find any­thing here.”

Baker said the Carbonear town of­fice sec­re­tary said she should talk to town ad­min­is­tra­tor Cyn­thia Davis, so when a mes­sage for Davis wasn’t re­turned, Baker went to the town of­fice in per­son to talk to her.

“She said re­ally that she didn’t know what can be done about it,” said Baker. “I do think that some­thing needs to be done about it... Some ed­u­ca­tion has to be brought forth to the pub­lic some­where.” Baker said Davis told her she’d speak to coun­cil to see what could be done about the prob­lem.

“It just seems like it was un­for­tu­nate that those kids were there and that had hap­pened, and that’s the way every­one’s looking at it and that’s it. But it re­ally could have been a bad sit­u­a­tion,” she said. “My kid just had to have HIV test­ing and hepati­tis test­ing at seven years old.”

A mes­sage left for Davis by The Com­pass re­sulted in a phone call from Carbonear Mayor Sam Slade, who said Fri­day it wasn’t a mu­nic­i­pal re­spon­si­bil­ity, and blamed peo­ple for dis­pos­ing nee­dles im­prop­erly.

“For the town’s part of it, un­less cer­tain places are iden­ti­fied where we can keep a good, close watch on it or what­ever the case may be, I mean how would we know?” he said, adding it was ir­re­spon­si­ble of whomever used the nee­dles to have left them near a school bus stop.

“ The most we can do as a town, we send out news­let­ters ev­ery three months. All we can do is ed­u­cate and make peo­ple aware that this is not proper, and prob­a­bly have that con­ver­sa­tion with the RCMP,” he said. “For our kids to be able to get their hands on any type of nee­dle, it’s just not heard of.”

But Slade later called back to con­firm that a no­tice will be go­ing out in the next news­let­ter ask­ing any­one who finds nee­dles to call the town, which will en­sure they’re dis­posed of prop­erly.

While Earle’s not overly wor­ried that any of the chil­dren may have pricked them­selves - it will be at least a few weeks be­fore the test re­sults come in — she’s wor­ried that her con­cern may have rat­tled her son some­what.

“I was talk­ing to (Cameron’s) teach­ers this morn­ing, and he was say­ing some­thing he was go­ing to die,” she said. “I think what it is, is that he was prob­a­bly a lit­tle con­fused be­cause I was telling him the dan­gers of the nee­dle, and what they could do. They could re­ally hurt you, they could re­ally make you sick. Or they could kill you. I had to be a lit­tle bit harsh with it, but I guess he took the harsher part of it.”

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