A horrified mum says her family faces six months of "living hell" as they await the outcome of medical tests, after her two-year-old son was injured by a syringe which she believes was taped to a handrail at a Paris airport.
Newtownards mum-of-two Stephanie Ford was returning from a family holiday to Disneyland Paris last Friday evening when the incident occurred outside Charles de Gaulle airport.
The family had decided to holiday close to home as Stephanie's son Calvin (2) suffers from a disorder which affects his mobility, and is awaiting a formal medical diagnosis.
Stephanie had been pushing little Calvin and her daughter Maddison (6) in a buggy when she slipped on vomit outside terminal 2D.
After regaining her balance, she heard her son exclaim "ouch" in pain, and her daughter told her that Calvin had "got something".
"I looked around and Calvin had a used needle in his hand, and it looked like he had been scratched on several sites," shocked Stephanie said.
"There was clear tape on the needle. It looked like it had been taped to the handrail which he had been running his hand along while I was pushing him in the buggy.
"We grabbed the needle, threw it to the ground and ran to get help.
"Someone who worked at the airport just shrugged and walked away, so I ran into the terminal like a lunatic and found a man who worked for Fedex, who rang the French authorities.
"But due to the language barrier they hung up the phone. Then some security guards came running and treated his wounds, and we went up to the airport's hospital bay.
"We were referred to Robert Ballanger hospital and had to make our own way there in a taxi.
"They took swabs of the needle and gave us a prescription for anti-viral drugs, but told us that it wouldn't be ready until Saturday evening at the earliest, and more likely Sunday.
"The doctor advised us to get Calvin home to Northern Ireland as soon as possible."
Having missed their original flight home, the desperate family paid over €1000 for hotel accommodation and flights to Dublin to get Calvin treatment as soon as possible.
They arrived into Dublin airport on Saturday evening, and went to the out-of-hours doctor in Newtownards at midnight.
They then attended the Royal Victoria Hospital's A&E department on Sunday afternoon, where Calvin finally received a Hepatitis B antiviral treatment.
However, due to his young age and his pre-existing medical condition, doctors advised against prescribing antiviral drugs for HIV and Hepatitis C.
Distraught Stephanie said she has been left "worried sick," as Calvin now faces a six-month wait to get the all-clear from the potentially life-threatening diseases.
"We went through 48 hours of hell before we got to the Royal," Stephanie continued. "They said that the risk of contracting HIV or Hepatitis C was very low. But there is a risk.
"The preliminary results in France came back clean, but they haven't got back to us with follow-up results yet.
"We are waiting on blood test results from the Royal at the minute, then we have to come back in four weeks' time to get another set of blood tests and a Hepatitis B booster, and there will be more blood tests up to the six month mark.
"The next six months will be a living nightmare".
Stephanie said she was "still in shock" at what happened, and slammed the person who left the needle as "sick and in need of help". "It's an act of pure evil," she continued.
"It's a terrible thing to condemn an innocent child to this suffering.
"Calvin is too young to understand exactly what has happened but he has become clingy - he remembers being held down in hospital and blood being taken from his arms.
"This is sickening, just harrowing.
"Luckily my daughter didn't pick up the needle as well - she has been in a right state and thought her brother was going to die. She's pretty traumatised."
Stephanie is now warning other parents to be on their guard.
"I am livid with Charles de Gaulle airport - there were piles of vomit in the area and the needle suggests it is popular with drug users, but there was an empty police car nearby and we have been told it is probably a blind spot for CCTV," she continued.
"The doctors at the airport seemed to think it was just an insulin needle. I think they were trying to play it down, as it could have been anything.
"I want to alert other families to be on their guard, as there are sick people out there who don't care that they might hurt an innocent child or anyone else.
"You worry about terror attacks and you think your kids will be safe if you put them in a buggy, but this shows that isn't the case. I don't want any other family to suffer the agony that we are going through."
A spokeswoman for ATP, which manages Charles de Gaulle airport, told this newspaper that it was the first time such an incident had happened there.
She stated: "We have cleaning teams, surveillance teams and safety teams who check both inside and outside the terminals, but this must have happened between two inspections.
"The syringe was taken to our doctors at the airport, they checked and inside it was insulin. We have no information about drug use occurring at the airport.
"No official report as such was made to the police, but the information was passed on. The safety and security of our travellers is our first priority."
The spokeswoman said she "did not know" whether the needle had been "purposefully left" and that it was "not reported" that it had been taped to a handrail.