Hunter mum and son receive needlestick injuries in McDonald's

Traumatised: Amanda Van Der Veen, with Kaleisha, four weeks, and Aspen, warned families to be vigilant about needles. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Traumatised: Amanda Van Der Veen, with Kaleisha, four weeks, and Aspen, warned families to be vigilant about needles. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

AN Aberglasslyn mother is investigating taking legal action against McDonald’s, after she and her four year old son sustained needle-stick injuries in its King Street, Newcastle, restaurant.

Amanda Van Der Veen alleged the company failed in its duty of care by not removing the needle in its disabled bathroom and provided an “inadequate” response to the traumatic incident.

“This event has changed everything,” she said. “I’m housebound, I don’t use public bathrooms and I have my third appointment with a psychologist coming up. I’m unlikely to return to my job as a lab technician.”

Mrs Van Der Veen was 17 weeks pregnant and dining with her son Aspen on November 7, when he pricked his hand on a needle he picked up in the locked bathroom, which had a sharps container.

When Mrs Van Der Veen instinctively lunged at her son to snatch the needle, it also punctured her hand. “I just got this overwhelming, devastated feeling,” she said. “I thought, ‘This could have anything in it, I could get a disease – what about the baby?’”

The store manager brought the pair to the women’s bathroom to wash their hands and took her details for an incident report.

Mrs Van Der Veen said she was shaking, crying and physically sick before paramedics arrived to assess the pair and advised them the risk of disease transmission was low. They were tested at John Hunter Hospital and told to return after three and six months.

Mrs Van Der Veen called McDonald’s head office two days later, which confirmed it had received the report and would be in touch. When she reached the store manager on the third day of calling, he advised her to ring him back if head office did not contact her. She did not hear from either again.

Mrs Van Der Veen became unable to inject herself with insulin required for her gestational diabetes and was admitted to hospital over concerns for her blood sugar levels and mental state. She slammed McDonald’s for waiting five months before calling her last week, minutes after the Herald contacted the company. “We tried to reach out and get help but felt so alone,” she said. “We will be going back to our solicitor.” 

A McDonald’s spokesperson said the incident was ‘not acceptable’. “Our restaurant was in contact with the customer on a number of occasions; but we certainly apologise if the customer feels she has not been appropriately supported. We have again reached out to offer any further assistance we can.” A Community Sharps Management Program fact sheet said it was “very rare” to get HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C from a used needle.

“These viruses usually do not survive for long periods outside the body,” it said.