A man with a learning disability who contracted Hepatitis B from a dirty needle while gardening died due to the virus twenty years later.
Dermot Redmond (53) from Walkinstown Road in Dublin 12 was working at St John of God’s in Sandyford, weeding a bed of roses when the accident happened.
“He was cleaning under the roses bushes when he was pricked by a dirty needle,” his mother Bridget Redmond told an inquest into his death at Dublin Coroner’s Court.
“He was such a happy go lucky man, he was 6” 3’, always singing and he never complained. He was such a joy and everyone that knew him loved him. He made a lot of people happy,” Mrs Redmond said.
Her son was cared for by medical staff at St Vincent’s Hospital and St James’s Hospital and he remained well for many years before the viral infection transferred accidentally by the infected needle caused tumours and cirrhosis of the liver.
In 2017 he was diagnosed with liver cancer and given a period of months to a year to live.
Shortly before his death he was admitted to hospital suffering from ‘coffee-ground vomiting’ which meant there was blood in his stomach and it had been sitting there for a while.
“He didn’t seem to stop vomiting, it was awful,” his mother said. Her son died in St James’s Hospital on February 11 last. A post-mortem examination found he died of decompensated liver disease due to chronic Hepatitis B related cirrhosis of the liver and hepatic cellular carcinoma following a needle stick injury. His mother Bridget said she could not recall the exact year her son sustained the needle prick injury but thought it was around 25 years ago. She said she had made contact with the organisation her son was working for at the time but they had no record of the incident.
“But for the hepatitis none of this would have happened,” Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said, noting someone who’s liver is not functioning well is more likely to bleed. “It’s a long road but it only goes in one direction,” the coroner said.
Returning a verdict of death misadventure, the corner said the situation was an ‘unfortunate outcome of a very simple thing.’
“It’s obvious he was very well cared for and loved,” the coroner said, extending her condolences to the family.
Let there be no mistake, sharps injury can be deadly. Without immediate and effective care in the event of injury, the consequences can be absolutely devastating. Prevention is essential and this will include exemplary standards of glove use – the right gloves too, not just the cheap ones – careful and appropriate packaging of sharps waste, and care on the part of sharps users to discard sharps only into those appropriate containers.
Employers have a legal duty to provide staff with adequate training and must supervise to ensure that training is being applied correctly and at all times. Staff health and welfare demands care in the development of plans in the event of a sharps injury or other significant exposure, that might be rather straightforward in healthcare establishments but far less so for ancillary workers and those working in the waste management sectors.
It’s not difficult, but if accidents happen and errors are found in the safety arrangements in place – or not properly in place – it will inevitably result in a heavy fine and costly litigation.
This case from Ireland should provide a salutary reminder for all, to take great care and report all incidents, near misses or not, to learn and improve.
The case also gives a new perspective to the ridiculous comments of Dr. Chris Mackie, that ”Discarded needles won’t “jump out and bite you“. That arrogant remark will be of little comfort to those innocently suffering scars injury from a discarded needle, through no fault of their own. Poor Mr Dermot Redmond and his family will no doubt have something to tell Mackie, in the hope that while he enjoys his long and comfortable retirement and generous pension, that others are working damned hard for very little, and might place themselves at risk every single day.
How about a job swap Dr Mackie, to learn better about what you so glibly dismiss?