An Okanagan mom who stepped on a used needle says it’ll be months before she knows whether or not she’s contracted a communicable disease.
Ashley Irvin is a 30-year-old mother of three young girls in Vernon. On Saturday, July 14, Irvin, her husband and daughters went for a day trip to nearby Kin Beach. After arriving, Irvin says they had been there for only a couple of minutes when “I stepped on what I thought was a sharp stick.”
“I gave my foot a shake to get rid of the debris. When I turned around to have a look at the stick, I quickly realized I had stepped on a used needle. My heart sank. The needle was in the sand only steps from the water’s edge and within a foot of my toddlers bare feet.”
Irvin says this beach trip may change her life forever.
“We quickly proceeded to pack our things and go home. I immediately went to the hospital and spent five hours in emergency,” said Irvin.
“My risk of transmission is relatively low because of the suspected age of the needle and point of entry. However, there is still a chance I may contract a disease that will change my life, and the life of my family forever.
“For precautionary measures, I have had to stop breastfeeding my youngest child and I will spend the next 9 months undergoing regular blood work to ensure I have not contracted any communicable disease, including HIV.”
Irvin says they weren’t the only family at Kin Beach that morning, adding there were two other families and about nine children, including her own, within 10 to 15 feet of the needle.
“It could have been any of those kids at the beach that morning . . . all of which were members of your community,” she said.
Irvin says she understands that drug addiction is a complex issue, but leaving needles on the beach is unacceptable.
“The City of Vernon and the Okanagan Indian Band need to find a way to work together to keep Kin Beach free of needles and illicit substance,” she said. “That is not an unreasonable request.”
Irvin says she and her family will not visit Kin Beach again, and that she’s on a mission to raise awareness.
“The City of Vernon needs to step up and take action, whether it is more needle disposal boxes in public areas, or increasing surveillance of the beaches in the evening and early morning. I don’t know what the answer is, but we need to start somewhere,” she said.
“Right now my family and I do not feel safe in many areas of town, including Kin Beach.”