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2 toddlers cut by discarded needles

by Matt Harvey

ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR

Two area toddlers were cut while playing with discarded needles recently at a Summit Park ballfield, according to the Harrison County Sheriff's Department.

The children are OK, according to the mothers of the children, but will need to be tested within six months for possible exposure to HIV, hepatitis or other blood-transmitted diseases. The newspapers chose to protect the identity of the children to avoid public scrutiny.

One mother said her son and a group of children were playing May 12 near a Dumpster at the park.

"I went over and checked on them a few times," the mother said. "With all those kids there, they were all playing together. They were just digging in the dirt."

But shortly afterward, her son came up to her with a "little blood on his face," she said.

"So, I wiped it away and asked him what happened," she said. "He said he got stuck with the 'stickers.' I asked him what he was talking about, and he said, 'those needle things.'

"I went over there and he showed me those syringes all around the Dumpster. Then we took him to the emergency room," she said.

The mother of the other child said both she and her son have learned a valuable lesson.

"I don't blame anyone but myself and the person who put the needles there," the mother said.

She said the children were playing in an area that is outside of the ballfields, not in the location where games are held.

Harrison Chief Deputy Gary Wine said about a dozen syringes were found near the Dumpster. The syringes were the kind used for insulin by diabetics, Wine said.

The syringes were sent to the state police laboratory, Wine said.

Wine said one of the children cut his arm, while the other cut his cheek and stomach.

The mother of the first child said, "Now, I'm upset that my child can't go to a park and me as a parent not be worried," she said. "I just can't let them play. You can't just go say go play for a while, have a good time; mommy's going to sit here and watch you."

The other mother said she personally checks the field before each game and has never found anything remotely similar to what the two children stumbled upon.

The mother of the first child said her initial fears about her child being infected have been assuaged after talks with several medical experts.

She said she was told it was a "one in a million chance he's going to catch anything from it because the virus doesn't live very long outside of the body."

Wine said it was unclear how the syringes came to be there.

Danny Dotson, president of the Summit Park Association, which operates the park, said the Dumpster had been cleaned out shortly before the incident.

But, "somebody came in during the day and dumped (garbage in) the Dumpster," Dotson said. "We have that problem all the time."

Dotson added that he has found "broadhead arrows" and live ammunition on the fields.

Dotson said he does not have the funding to have saturation patrols of the park. The fields at the 14.5-acre park are leased to the county for $1 for 25 years, he said, while the park association's main income -- from concessions -- is about $3,000 to $4,000 a year.

"It's unfortunate," Dotson said, "but I don't know what the solution is. Close it down, and the kids don't get to use it. But you can't afford to keep someone there all the time."

Dotson added that he was "horrified, scared to death that the (kids) got hurt in such a manner."

"You can understand them getting hurt in a ballgame, getting hit with a ball, sliding, getting skinned up. But when it comes to something like this, not disposing of needles properly ... in this day and age, that's unthinkable to dispose of needles in that manner."

Hospitals provide patients who do their own injections with containers that the needles can be placed in. The containers are then to be returned to the hospitals.

Meanwhile, Wine had this tip for other parents in the event of a similar occurrence: "(The children) should be tested immediately for HIV," Wine said. "Needles could be used for drugs, and even if they're not, they would still be contaminated with dried blood."

Mark Povroznik, assistant director of clinical pharmacy at United Hospital Center, said the first thing for parents to look for in this kind of case would be whether the needle had fresh blood on it.

He pointed out that HIV doesn't live long in the air. He also added that HIV rates in West Virginia, although on the rise, still remain very low.

Because of those factors, the chance of infection are minimal, he said.

However, parents should take their children to the emergency room, he said. For one thing, children might need a tetanus shot, he said.

Assistant Managing Editor Matt Harvey can be reached at 626-1449.

Editor's Note: Staff writer Paul Darst and Assistant City Editor Pam Kendall contributed to this story.

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