A 59-year-old local man – we’ll call him “J” – received an unpleasant “gift” for Father’s Day this year. Around 2pm on Sunday, June 15, 2014, J stepped on a used hypodermic needle buried in the sand at Cowell Beach. J rode his bike from his home on the Westside to Cowell’s to meet up with his swimming group. They regularly swim in the ocean, forgoing wetsuits and wearing only bathing suits and swim caps. After he arrived at the beach, J sat down and put on his cap, then stood up to walk to the water. He only made it a few steps before his left foot came down hard on the needle.
A Santa Cruz City lifeguard treated J’s injury by cleaning the wound with alcohol swabs, and J saw his regular physician the next day. J was referred to an infectious disease doctor, who prescribed a series of hepatitis vaccinations for J. The doctor decided against prescribing anti-HIV drugs, stating that the drugs are so potent they would “land J in the hospital.”
J’s needle stick injury is unfortunately not the first at Cowell Beach. In May 2013, a 12-year-old boy found a needle, played with it, and pierced his finger tip. He was treated at Dominican Hospital and given antiviral treatment. So what had the City of Santa Cruz been doing to help prevent another injury such as J’s? According to the Parks and Recreation Department, the sand is sifted 2-3 times per week and raked 1-2 times per week as needed. Staff are out daily picking up debris and the Rotarians are out volunteering every Monday morning. SCPD and First Alarm are conducting additional patrols. The City will also be installing cameras to help watch problem areas at Cowell and Main. Despite these steps, it was clearly not enough to prevent J’s accident.
J has been a Santa Cruz resident since 1989. During that 25 years, he has been devoted to Cowell Beach, regularly cleaning trash and calling to report the suspicious activity that has been occurring with more regular frequency. To have such a dedicated local (or anyone for that matter), be “gifted” with a needle stick injury is tragic.
Needle Stats as of June 22, 2014:
5,090 Needles reported found in public spaces
7 needle sticks (3 were children)