By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — With a child's discovery of a discarded hypodermic needle, a local family recently found themselves threatened by the scourge of addiction, which through no doing of their own has cast a shadow over their lives.
A father, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he his 7-year-old daughter was playing in the family's fenced backyard where she found a discarded hypodermic needle in the vegetable garden. The needle had been tossed over the 7-foot-high fence. The girl, who enjoys collecting things, took the needle to her clubhouse and played with it for three days before her parents discovered it.
"We were very concerned," said the father, who was aware that blood from a used needle may carry disease, especially the AIDS virus, HIV, and viral hepatitis, particularly hepatitis C, or HCV. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about eight of 10 addicts infected with HIV are also infected with HCV.
The father said that he took his daughter to the emergency department at Lakes Region General Hospital at once and called the Laconia Police Department to collect the needle.
"She was very scared," he recalled, "and I probably scared her even more."
He said that the staff at the emergency room drew blood from his daughter as well as also tested residue in the syringe and the needle.The tests, he said, indicated "the odds were in her favor and her chances of being infected were remote." He said that the "the staff at the hospital went out of their way to make us feel comfortable. They were terrific." The family also contacted their primary care physician, who after consulting with a number of other doctors, reached the same conclusion.
The father said that his daughter will undergo regular blood tests over the course of a year, but for the moment — and hopefully forever — will be spared intensive treatment on the recommendation of the physicians. Nevertheless, he said that the incident "has affected our lives greatly and will continue to do so." There remains, he said, "the possibility she may have contracted HIV or hepatitis C, and the chance she will need an intensive, 30-day treatment that will wreak havoc on her body."
The short-term side effects of the medications used to treat HIV include anemia, diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, nausea, vomiting, pain and rashes. There are also long-term side effects of these medications. They may cause body fat to be redistributed from the face and limbs to the abdomen, and abnormal levels of blood sugar that can lead to diabetes. Cholesterol and triglyceride levels may rise. Likewise, lactate, a waste product in the body, may increase, causing problems ranging from muscle aches to liver failure.
The father said that the ordeal "also slams it in our faces that this problem doesn't just affect those held in the grip of drug abuse. It also affects a completely innocent 7-year-old and her innocent family."
He urged those injecting drugs not to leave their needles where a child can find it. "I can't think of anything more selfish, abhorrent or wrong."
At the same time, he asked parents to warn their children against touching and handling discarded needles.
"Parents need to teach their children," he said. "Bad things can happen."
Police Chief Chris Adams said that anyone who finds a needle should immediately report it to the police, either by dialing 911 or calling the station at 524-5257.
"Do not touch it," he stressed.
He explained that officers are equipped and prepared to handle discarded needles safely and have secure containers where they can be kept before being disposed of at the hospital. He said that the department is working with the school to alert children and adolescents of the risks of handling discarded needles.
"Don't touch them," he repeated. "Call us and let us deal with them."
This bundle of needles was found on a beach in Laconia recently. One child in Laconia found a used needle when it was apparently tossed into the family’s back yard over a tall fence. (Courtesy photo/Laconia Police Department)
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