Petra McDonald was pricked by a needle while on a train and is waiting for the results of blood tests.
Petra McDonald was pricked by a needle while on a train and is waiting for the results of blood tests. Warren Lynam

Mother pricked by syringe on train

FOR the next three months a dark cloud will hang over the head of Petra McDonald.

The Kenilworth mother-of-two sat on a syringe which had been discarded on a Brisbane train last month.

She now faces an agonising wait to see if she has contracted any life-threatening diseases such as Hepatitis B and C.

Although doctors have advised the chance of contracting HIV is low, between 0.4% and 0.8%, the mere thought is terrifying.

The 33-year-old administration assistant had just been to visit her uncle at Wesley Hospital at Auchenflower with her mum and dad.

The trio had decided to head into Central Station and grab a bite to eat before travelling back to Sunshine Coast.

As the train pulled into the station, Ms McDonald half stood up.

But feeling unsteady on her feet, she quickly sat back down, not noticing the syringe on the seat before feeling it jab her.

When she got back to her feet she saw the syringe sticking up between the wall and the seat and burst into tears.

“Immediately I thought the worst, that some drug user had left it and I had exposed myself to AIDS.

“My dad, who was sitting across the carriage, saw the tears and asked what was wrong.

“He took one look at the needle and grabbed one of the workers.”

Ms McDonald said she was told to stand on Central Station platform and wait for help.

“Minutes felt like hours,” she said.

“Dozens of QR workers kept walking past and dad kept asking if they were here to help me but they crankily shrugged us off.

“One of them had a sharps container. We asked if the needle that pricked me was in there and were told there were four they had collected in the one day.

“He said the things QR staff saw were disgusting, that users put needles into ticket machines.”

Ms McDonald was then whisked away in a taxi to St Andrews War Memorial Hospital where she had a blood test.

This will be the baseline for further tests at six and 12 weeks post-exposure.

By the time Ms McDonald was released from hospital it was late.

QR paid for tickets to Caboolture Station and a taxi to Nambour.

“I am sure I will be okay. I was told there have been no confirmed reports in Australia of HIV from a needle stick injury from a syringe discarded in a public place,” she said.

“But the anxiety comes from not knowing.

“My parents lost 20 years off their life that day, they were sick with worry.

“That night I had a headache and was feeling nauseous fearing there could have been drugs in the needle.

“What if I had my kids with me?”

As a result of the incident QR has launched new mobile cleaning patrols.

The 26-person squad will start work next month travelling throughout the network conducting “spot-checks” on carriages, which are already cleaned daily.

“I was told there have been no confirmed reports in Australia of HIV from a needle stick injury from a syringe discarded in a public place. But the anxiety comes from not knowing.”



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