Ashley Irving, a 30-year-old mother of three, wrote into the Morning Star to share a story that she said may have changed her life forever.
On Saturday, July 14, around 10 a.m. she told the Morning Star that her family decided to take their three daughters to Vernon’s Kin Beach for the day.
“After only a couple of minutes being there, I stepped on what I thought was a sharp stick. I gave my foot a shake to get rid of the debris,” she wrote. “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 toddler’s bare feet.”
She said she immediately went to the hospital and spent five hours in emergency worried about a risk of disease transmission. Doctors reportedly told her that her risk is relatively low because of the suspected age of the needle and point of entry, though there is a small chance for contraction of a disease.
“For precautionary measures, I have had to stop breastfeeding my youngest child and I will spend the next nine months undergoing regular bloodwork to ensure I have not contracted any communicable disease, including HIV,” Irving further explained. “When can we put resources into harm prevention for our children and people in public places? 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. That is not an unreasonable request.”
The Okanagan Indian Band have since responded to the incident by confirming they are in discussions with the City of Vernon and Regional District of North Okanagan to implement an Indian Reserve #6 Beach Lands Services Agreement to ensure the entire beachfront adjacent to Kin Beach is maintained to the same standard.
While the services agreement will not guarantee that these type of incidents won’t occur, it should help reduce risk. However, they noted a firm belief that social problems in this region are not isolated to specific locations such as Kin Beach/Sandy Beach in Vernon.
“These problems are becoming prevalent throughout parks in urban areas in Vernon, the Regional District of North Okanagan and beyond. OKIB believes additional resources and efforts should be provided for this region to help address some of the social problems and the related adverse effects they are having on our communities,” they wrote in a press release Wednesday morning. “This is not an OKIB problem, it is all our problem and it is one where children and young adults lives are at stake. We cannot fix this problem in isolation from one another, but we can make a difference by working together to find a solution.”
She said she’s on a mission to raise awareness in the community in the hopes that the city will take action. She suggests needle disposal boxes in public areas or increasing surveillance at beaches and public parks overnight. Though she acknowledged that she doesn’t have the answers, she said that it’s a safety issue for her children. She hopes a solution can be found and that nothing serious comes of the incident.
“I truly hope the city of Vernon can find a solution and restore the confidence of their citizens because we are losing hope fast,” Irving concluded.
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