Father-of-one jabbed with dirty needle during park clean-up
DUBLIN City Council worker Denis Fitzpatrick had his life turned upside down when he was jabbed in the leg by a used heroin needle.
Mr Fitzpatrick, a father of four who takes care of gardens around the capital for the local authority, was pricked in the thigh while cleaning St Audeon's Park, beside Christ Church.
The incident happened one morning in 2008 when he had been using his rubbish picker as normal to lift a brown paper bag off the ground in the park.
Mr Fitzpatrick assumed that the bag was empty as it was "lying flat on the ground" and he threw it into a black plastic sack along with other litter. However, later on when he was lifting the sack, a used heroin needle that had been in the paper bag, broke through and jabbed him in the thigh.
"I took the needle with me to the hospital and I remember there was a small bit of blood in it," he added.
Mr Fitzpatrick had to wait for a full year before receiving the all-clear for various drug-related diseases and viruses.
"It affected my family life for a long time, my wife, my children. I took myself away from them, I was nervous that they'd catch something off me.
"I had to wait a year for the clearance of all the blood tests," Mr Fitzpatrick told the Herald.
Following this incident he had another scare with dirty syringes.
A few summers ago he was cutting the grass at the entrance to St Audeon's Park - beside where the steps to the old Dublin city gates are located.
Above the steps drug-users were injecting and when they were finished they threw their needles down on to the grass he was cutting.
"It was a near-miss that summer," Mr Fitzpatrick said.
He has taken care of St Audeon's Park for the last 14 years and has been picking up dozens of used needles every day as part of his job.
Aside from maintaining the busy park, he spends a lot of time warning tourists and families about the discarded needles there.
"I have to warn all the tourists on bus trips down here. We have children in the summer and you have to warn them, but you're not here all the time. Kids are going in the grass, they're playing in the rocks, there are needles everywhere. There are needles where we can't even get in and find them."
Mr Fitzpatrick witnesses drug-users injecting in the area every day and has also seen a number of overdoses take place in the park.
"It's all the time, it's constantly going on. They're shooting up in public when people are coming in to sit down and have lunch. It's office people coming in, people sitting on benches, tourists stopping off here and people coming in to take photographs," he said.
In one summer alone, he collected 3,500 needles from the park and counted four incidences of overdosing from drugs in the space of two days.
He has also worked in the 20-acre Bushy Park in Terenure, but never picked up a single needle from there.
Mr Fitzpatrick believes that medically-supervised injecting centres are the best way forward, in dealing with the problem of used needles being discarded around the city.
"I think dorms should be opened up to keep it out of the public's way. They've a system that they use in Holland where they use these dormitories, where no harm can come to anyone basically," he stated.
Following the incident where he was jabbed Mr Fitzpatrick received counselling.
"Dublin City Council do a great job, they've a back-up system for you. It's very wise to use the counselling service.
"They've a great system for it now - for going to the hospital and making sure you're taken care of," Mr Fitzpatrick said.