The family had opened all its gifts, and Nanette Snyder’s 16-year-old son was wearing the hoody sweatshirt she’d bought him from the Seventh Avenue Walmart in Longview, when the incident occurred. About 1 p.m. she asked him to stand up so she could see how it looked. He stuck his hand in the front pocket and said “ow,” Snyder recalled.
What followed next was a parent’s worst nightmare, she said.
Her son pulled his hand out the pocket and a syringe was still stuck in his finger, the boy’s stepfather, Tom Basye, said Thursday. Another syringe also was found in the pocket, and both appear to have been used. One still had blood on the needle.
“I was just numb,” Snyder said.
“Just utter shock,” Basye said.
She took her son (she is not naming him publicly) to the emergency department at St. John Medical Center in Longview for HIV and hepatitis blood tests. As of late Thursday afternoon, the family still didn’t have the initial test results. Even if the first round of tests are negative, they’ll be anxious for most of next year, because the boy will need to be tested again at six weeks, 12 weeks and six months, Snyder said.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, it’s possible to contract HIV or Hepatitis from a single needle stick, but it’s extremely rare. The risk for HIV transmission from an infected needle stick is 0.3 percent. The risk is 1.8 percent for Hepatitis C and between 6 and 30 percent for Hepatitis B.
Those statistics do little to calm Snyder and her son while they await results.
“Awful,” she said Thursday morning. “That’s how we’re doing, awful. ... We had a really rough night last night.”
She bought the sweatshirt in late November and said it’s been wrapped and sitting in her home ever since.
Snyder called the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s office but was told there wasn’t much it could do. She wondered if authorities could test the syringes for fingerprints or run a DNA test on the blood on the syringe.
She also planned on filing a report with Walmart on Thursday and contacting a lawyer.
Walmart corporate spokeswoman Betsy Harden said the company is investigating the report.
“We take this very, very seriously and we want to get to a better idea of what could have happened,” she said.
The store has not received any other complaints and has checked remaining merchandise but didn’t find any other needles, she said. It’s possible surveillance video could be reviewed as well, but first the store needs more details about the date of purchase, she said.
As for Snyder, she can’t shake the guilt of buying the sweatshirt for her son — and for asking him to stand up and show it off. She’s also upset because she chose to raise her kids in Toutle’s country setting precisely to keep them away from the risks of drugs.
“I feel like crap,” she said. “It’s a horrible feeling.”