Last week, 63-year-old Mary Hauser was dreaming of retirement. Today, she’s wondering if she’ll be alive to enjoy it.
Longtime Surrey resident Mary Hauser told the Now-Leader she was pricked by a used needle while cleaning a parenting room at Central City Shopping Centre last Saturday.
“There was a few pieces of paper towel on top of this garbage bin in the parenting room,” said Hauser, who works for a janitorial company contracted to provide cleaning services for the mall. “I reached over to grab the paper towels on top. All of the sudden, oh no. It happened to me. Oh no. I just lost it. There was a needle. It had punctured me through my skin and there was a little bit of blood. I just stood there in a little bit of disbelief.
“My mind went to worse case scenario. I was shocked, I was angry,” Hauser added. “I thought, ‘Oh God, help me. I don’t want my life to end this way.’
“I thought, like everybody else does, that it would never, never happen to me. I’m smart…. but this needle, this syringe, was mixed in with paper towels and it was first thing in the morning and it was in the family room where parents go to change their children.”
Hauser said she alerted mall security, who lent her money for a cab to get to Surrey Memorial Hospital.
“They took my blood for analysis. They also gave me all those horse pills,” she said. “Scary. It’s scary.”
Hauser said she’s “in limbo” for months before she knows if she’s contracted a disease.
“I could be right now, be infected with hepatitis or Aids or whatever.”
Why speak out?
Hauser said she was compelled to do so because she’s not the only one to suffer this fate.
“I was mad. And I am mad. And that’s why I want to tell the world because I am not alone,” she said.
“I know, there’s people who come to me, but everybody’s too afraid to say anything, scared of being blacklisted or fired or whatever. I don’t care. I’m 63 years old. I will speak my mind because democracy is not democracy unless you exercise your democratic right.”
She said she’s fed up dealing with people who come into the mall bathrooms to do drugs.
“These people have no respect for themselves, they have no respect for me, they have no respect for anybody. All they want is give me, give me, give me. All they ever talk about is rights. ‘I have rights.’ But nobody ever talks about having responsibilities. Rights without responsibilities is chaos.
“What about my right to live my life?” she said, fighting back tears. “I’m 63 years old, I want to enjoy the rest of my life. I work bloody hard. Somebody left that needle uncapped.”
Fraser Health spokeswoman Tasleem Juma said the health authority is “aware of a needle prick incident that occurred in Surrey” this weekend.
“While the risk of getting sick if pricked by a needle is low, we do recognize it can be very upsetting to the individual,” she said. “Out of respect for the person’s privacy we won’t go into details about their care, but I can tell you that we take this type of injury seriously and they are being closely followed and supported.”
Juma said needle pricks are “rare” but this incident “highlights the need to continue working with our community partners to ensure sharps containers are readily available, especially in public bathrooms so we can avoid unfortunate incidents like this in the future.”
Juma said anyone who comes across inappropriately discarded needles can report it using the My Surrey App or by calling 604-328-7610.
Fraser Health advises those who are pricked by a discarded needle to let the wound bleed freely, quickly wash the area with soap and warm water, do not squeeze or bleach the injured area, call Fraser Health’s communicable disease program at 1-866-990-9941, and visit the emergency department within two hours for treatment and follow-up.
The Now-Leader asked Central City Shopping Centre for comment, which was deferred to Hallmark Housekeeping Services (HHS), who is contracted to do janitorial work there.
Jack Niewolski, VP of Western Canada for Hallmark, stated the company is “in the process of investigating the incident that occurred at the Central City Shopping Centre and are unable to comment on any details at this time.”
In an email, Niewolski said HHS is “committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment in order to prevent occupational illness and injury in the workplace. Our company ensures that it is in compliance with the Occupational Health & Safety Regulation of British Columbia, as well as all other applicable laws and standards.
“We have a comprehensive health & safety program,” he added, “which includes policies and procedures designed to keep all of our employees safe. Included in this program are procedures and training for safely collecting and discarding waste, in order to avoid injury or exposure to harmful materials or substances.”