The Syringe Saga

One day a few months ago I was out shopping and taking pictures- looking forward to a day off (Opa was going to pick the girls up from school!). About an hour into my blissful day I get a phone call from Simon, and I knew right away something was wrong.

Simon: “Um, just got a call from Quinnie’s school- I have some potentially very bad news…”.

For anybody who knows Simon (Mr. Laid- Back would be an understatement)- for him to sound scared or worried about something is HUGE.

Me (heart beating rapidly): “What?!”

Simon: “The Principal said that when Quinnie was out at park pause (the school uses the local public park for recess) Quinnie found a used syringe and pricked herself with it.”

I pretty much went numb as we started talking about all of the things/drugs/viruses that she could have been infected with. As I headed home I had tears streaming down my face while I was thinking of the worst case scenario (as Moms often do).

Simon went to pick Quinnie up at school (she was very distraught- she could tell by the reaction of the teachers and other students that this was a big deal). Her teacher told us later that at the beginning of the school year they talk to the kids about not touching needles- but of course Quinnie didn’t understand much German back then, so she didn’t get the message.

We had never really lived in a place where we had to worry about dirty needles before, so we hadn’t had many conversations with our girls about it. I feel like I am a pretty safe/ cautious parent (to the point that it drives Simon crazy sometimes). I thought I had covered most of the “dangers in the world” conversations with my girls – to the point that I worried about squashing their love of adventure.

The whole way home I was mentally flogging myself. We were moving to a city. How did I forget to talk to my girls about needles?

Simon went back to the park to pick the syringe out of the trash so it could be tested, if need be (and also so that we could show it to Kiera so she would know to never touch anything like that). We took Quinnie to Urgent Care. The Doctor we saw (who seemed very competent), inspected the syringe and finally said that he thought her risk of infection was very low since it looked like the syringe was very old, and viruses can’t live that long. But to be safe we should set up a “control” blood draw for the next day with her Pediatrician, and then get follow up blood draws at 6 weeks and then 6 months. I started to unclench a little bit- he seemed pretty unconcerned.

The next day we saw Quinnie’s Pediatrician and he had the same reaction- not very worried. The blood draw was HORRIBLE. Our usually brave 7 year old was literally hiding behind the Dr.’s chair, crying and trembling- and wouldn’t come out. No amount of verbal coercing worked and we (unfortunately) had to drag her out and hold her down. After the 2nd blood draw at 6 weeks (same horrible experience) the Dr. said that if this blood draw came back completely normal he wasn’t going to put her through the 6 month mark one (I guess at 6 weeks there would be some indication of an infection/ change in the blood if there was exposure to something).

Last week we got the GREAT news that her blood came back completely normal!!! We are SO thankful. It was hard at times- having to wait 6 weeks (and possibly 6 months) for the results. But I have had enough unfortunate things happen in my life to understand that we really don’t have much control over when/ how bad things happen in our lives. Bad things happen to good people all the time. If you spend lots of energy worrying about things you can’t control you’ll make yourself miserable.


Pic of Quinnie at the Pediatrician’s office the day of the needle prick

The park where Quinnie’s school has recess is one of nicest, cleanest ones in the city. Lots of the parks in Köln have syringe disposal containers to try and minimize spreading infection. What kind of person drops a needle in a park where children play when they can so easily dispose of it safely? Actually, I guess if you’re shooting up in a park you maybe don’t have the best judgement…


Metal box at a park for dirty needle disposal


Vending machine at the park where you can buy new, clean needles, antiseptic skin wipes, and cooking pans. Kind of blows my mind. I wonder if they have these in NYC?


close-up of vending machine

A few weeks later we also had to bring Quinnie to the Dentist to get a loose tooth pulled (she refused to wiggle it and was trying to keep it in her mouth forever, and it got infected). Simon snapped a pic after the extraction. The tooth was barely attached and the procedure was not a big deal but Quinnie is very protective of her teeth. This is a girl who has never had the Tooth Fairy come because her teeth are “too precious” and she wants to “keep them forever”. She is so melodramatic- Simon said she screamed at the top of her lungs when the Dentist pulled it out.  After a year of her having constantly loose teeth (she’s lost 8 already!) we are enjoying having no loose teeth for a bit.


Quinnie’s last ditch attempt at wiggling her tooth so she wouldn’t have to go to the Dentist that day. It didn’t work.


Poor kid has been through a lot- but she always recovers / gets over it so fast. She’s our resilient big girl.

By the way- medications for children are completely free in Germany! Even things like Ibuprofen! How awesome is that?! It makes so much sense to me- why should a kid have to suffer because their parent can’t afford medication?

Anyways, that’s the Syringe Saga- let’s hope it’s the last one!


4 thoughts on “The Syringe Saga

  1. Amy

    I can’t believe they have the needle vending machines!

  2. Jimena

    Dear Meegan,
    I love reading your blog and follow your family adventures in Germany whenever I can. You write so nicely, personally and genuinely about your family and your discoveries and take beautiful pictures. It is also very nice to hear and see how you experience Germany coming from the states.
    I am so sorry to now read about Quinnie’s accident with the syringe and very, very happy that everything turned out OK for her. What a nightmare! That is one of my huge fears, since here in San Francisco this is a big problem too on all playgrounds even though there is a big needle exchange program in place by the city to prevent this. I did not think about it either until our favorite playground temporarily closed because a child pricked herself with a used needle that was buried in the sandbox. Carla loves to walk barefoot whenever she can and takes off her shoes faster than I can look. I can very much relate to the feelings and thoughts you had when this happened. I am very glad everything turned out to be fine!

    • Meegan

      Thanks so much Jimena! Just sent you an email…

  3. Grandma

    So thankful with the outcome of the syringe saga! She is a resilient little girl..a little actress too! Love the picture at the dentist office…Hopefully, Kiera won’t be as dramatic with the loss of her teeth…xomom

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