ROOSEVELT — Ethan Gurr likes to collect "treasures," according to his mom, but the 8-year-old's latest find has doctors testing Ethan's blood to make sure he hasn't been exposed to HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases.
"I don't want to say this to be mean, but he's kind of a packrat," Katrina Gurr said. "He finds something, discovers it, and he's got maybe a box or a bag and he's got his little treasures in there."
Typically, it's "cool rocks and things like that," she added.
"It's not uncommon to get surprises in the washer," Ethan's dad, Mike Gurr, said.
Ethan was walking around the perimeter of the playground Tuesday at East Elementary School when he found something unusual for his collection — a hypodermic needle. The second-grader said he stashed his discovery in his lunchbox for safekeeping.
When Ethan reached into his lunchbox a short time later, the needle poked his finger.
"Then I looked at my finger and it was on my finger," he said Thursday.
Ethan's younger sister told their mom after school that Ethan had the needle, Katrina Gurr said, and her son initially tried to get rid of it. She retrieved the needle, though, and began to press her son for information.
"I said, 'Honey, it's important that you tell me if you have been poked,'" Katrina Gurr said.
Ethan eventually showed his mom the spot where the needle had pricked his finger, and she took him to the hospital for blood tests. She also contacted the school with her concerns.
"If it is a drug needle, why is it there at the school?" Katrina Gurr said, noting that there appeared to be dried blood around the base of the needle.
Custodians are now required to walk the grounds at East Elementary to check for needles and other hazards, according to Dean Wilson, director of student services for the Duchesne County School District. The practice will soon be in place district-wide, he said.
"We have a secondary and elementary principals training (where) we will go over this as a district, not just leave it to the one school," Wilson said.
District administrators have asked Roosevelt police to increase patrols around East Elementary, and an assembly will be held Friday to talk to students about safety, Wilson said.
"We're going to do the best we can to keep our kids safe," he said.
The Gurrs hope the district's policy changes — and their decision to share Ethan's story — will prevent other children from coming into contact with used needles at school and in other public places.
"As safe as you think your children are in a small-town school or anywhere, it's possible they are being exposed to more than you know," Katrina Gurr said.
The first round of test results show that Ethan is OK, but doctors won't know if he is truly in the clear until another round of blood test are run in six months.
"You try not to think about it," Mike Gurr said, referring to the possibility that his son may have accidentally become infected with a lethal disease, "but it's hard not to."
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