A 9-year-old Puyallup girl visiting for a weekend softball tournament will have to undergo periodic blood tests for several months after she was poked by a hypodermic needle found in the bedding of her Aberdeen hotel room.
While the girl and her family stayed at the hotel the remainder of the weekend, her mother, other family members and officials from her team are now accusing the Guest House Inn & Suites of not doing enough to handle the problem or compensate the family after the incident was reported.
The mother and daughter, Angie and Emily Smith, were staying at the hotel with other family and team members, and Emily felt a sharp object in her foot when she got into bed Saturday night, according to police and media reports.
“After my daughter was poked by a hypodermic needle found under the sheets in her bed, this place only offered to clean our room,” Angie Smith wrote on The Daily World’s Facebook page on Monday. “A little late, don’t you think? The staff was very rude and wouldn’t even pay for our room.”
Aberdeen Police Sgt. John Green confirmed there had been a report filed Friday night after police were called about 10:30. At that time, aid was refused, the police report said.
Police then talked with the hotel manager, who said the girl’s “parents asked the employee not to report it” but the hotel policy is to report all such incidents, according to the police report.
Green confirmed that police did give a bag containing the items found in the bedding to the girl’s father, who took it to the hospital for tests.
Police reported two syringes were found on the top mattress on a bunk bed under a sheet and mattress cover. They were described as being disposable syringes, one with a needle and the other without a needle. One of the syringes had a tiny amount of fluid in it, according to the police report.
“To the officers, this was clearly a medical issue,” Green said, which was why they placed the syringes in a plastic bag and gave them to the father so they could be tested at the hospital.
Angie Smith said the reason she first told the hotel not to report the incident was because she had already called police. The girl’s father was given the needle, she noted, so he could take it to Grays Harbor Community Hospital to be tested after she had already taken Emily to the emergency room.
She said her daughter was in the hospital until about 1 a.m. and will have to undergo months of blood tests. Her main concern is HIV disease, and hepatitis B or C.
The family had reserved a two-bedroom suite for the weekend softball tournament and Emily was sleeping in the top of a bunk bed.
“We had lights out and then all of a sudden Emily hollard, ‘Ouch, something just poked me,’ ” Angie Smith said. Her husband went to check on Emily and noticed a tiny bit of blood, and then found the needle and several other items under the sheets.
“There were the syringes and then a couple of bandages with blood stains on them,” she said. “I was pretty much in shock.”
Smith said she called the front desk and asked that they get a manager and then phoned the Aberdeen Police Department, who told her an officer would be dispatched.
“I asked them about protocol and told them I didn’t know what to do. I asked them whether she needed to be seen by a doctor, and they said she probably did. They asked if I needed an ambulance and I said I would take her right away to the hospital,” Angie Smith said.
Angel Housden, manager of the hotel, said she was first notified about the incident at about 10:30 Friday when her front desk employee called and said the family did not want 911 for assistance. She then called police herself from her cell phone, Housden said.
“They declined having us call for an ambulance,” she said.
Later, she and two police officers entered the room and Housden said she watched them remove something off the bed and put it into a bag.
Housden said she began to do an internal investigation and document the incident “trying to find out what went on before the owner made any decisions on how this was going to be handled in the end.”
While the mother took the daughter to the hospital, Housden said she offered other family members a new room, which they declined, or the option to have “a housekeeping sweep” of the current room, which they also declined.
She was told the family wanted the room and another one comped free for the weekend.
“I apologized to them and told them that I did not have the authorization to do that, but I would take all the statements and everything I can gather and definitely give it to my superior, who would then do an internal investigation and make a decision from there,” Housden said.
But when the family checked out on Sunday morning, Housden said, another dispute began about having to pay for the room.
“They were emotionally charged and angry when they realized their credit card had been charged,” Housden said.
Angie Smith acknowledged she and other family and team members continued to stay at the hotel because they had adjoining rooms and were with the softball team there.
“In our opinion, it was better for us to visibly watch them clean our room rather than to go to another room and not know what is there either,” Smith said.
But she acknowledges contacting media and writing complaints about the hotel on several online sites after her treatment.
“We really didn’t have any other options. We were there for a tournament. The rest of her team was there, and we knew everything else around us was probably booked, so that was our reason for staying,” Angie Smith said.
She added that at checkout on Sunday, she figured the dispute would be settled and she could talk to the manager, who wasn’t there at the time.
“The problem was that when I went to check out on Sunday I had a really rude front desk person who had no idea anything had happened,” Angie Smith said. “She said it was the first she had heard of this situation. It was like they were trying to shove it under the rug and they don’t even want to tell the rest of their staff.”
James Durand, a softball team official who had made arrangements for 13 rooms at the hotel, said he was “apalled with the way the hotel handled everything.” He said he personally witnessed the troubles Smith had in checking out.
“It was horrible the way they treated this family,” he said.
Smith said she finally left after the owner and manager refused to talk to her and her credit card was charged about $220.
Emily will now have to wait several days until initial lab tests come back at Community Hospital. It might take a year of periodic tests before she is fully cleared, her mother said.
Angie Smith has nothing but praise for how she was treated at the hospital.
“I do have to give a lot of credit to the hospital there,” she said. “They were excellent and rushed her in. They had their ER room full and they moved someone out so they could work on her right away.”