Mum's urgent warning after children step on toxic debris at playground

·3-min read

A mum has issued a warning over a common tree after two of her children ended up needing surgery from playing with a fallen branch.

Victoria Meys was at a playground in Auckland, New Zealand with her children Madelyn, 12, and William, 7, when they started playing with the fronds that had fallen off a Phoenix Palm tree.

"They were in a bush hut near a playground and kids were using them to make bridges," Ms Meys explained to Yahoo News Australia.

A child's leg wrapped in bandages from ankle to knee.
The woman has issued a warning after two of her children stepped on a poisonous plant. Source: Supplied.

"They were just playing with another group of children, then my son just came out of there and said that my daughter couldn't walk."

Ms Meys went and helped her daughter out, taking her shoe off, thinking something may have bitten her when she noticed a tiny mark on her leg.

"It almost looked like a sting from a wasp or something like that," she recalled.

Both children required surgery

The next day, Madelyn still couldn't walk and was still in so much pain she was taken to the emergency department, where they did an ultrasound to try and figure out what was wrong.

At that point, Ms Meys had revisited the playground, noting that leaves from a palm tree where the kids had been playing were lying around.

Sure enough, doctors found a centimetre long piece of palm needle stuck in her tendon.

The kids were playing with branches from the tree. Source: Supplied
The kids were playing with branches from the tree. Source: Supplied

"At that stage, I had noticed that my son William had a prick on the side of his leg," Ms Meys said.

"And I thought 'I wonder if he has been pricked too', but he wasn't in any pain or anything. He was just, you know, running around like normal."

Taking William to the hospital to double-check, doctors found a centimetre long needle in William's calf as well.

"[The needle] had gone into his calf, and with the muscle travelled down his leg — probably three or four centimetres — then turned on the side with the muscle that had moved inside his leg," she said.

Both children underwent surgery on October 17 to remove the needles from their legs, resulting in limited mobility with both kids on crutches.

"Tuesday marks just over a week since they had their bandages taken off and they've got quite a large stitched area on the leg and foot from the operation, it's definitely going to scar," Ms Meys explained. 

The needles from the tree got caught in Madlyn and William's legs, requiring surgery. Source: Supplied
The needles from the tree got caught in Madlyn and William's legs, requiring surgery. Source: Supplied

'Palm trees should be removed'

Ms Meys contacted the local council after her children's surgery to remove the debris from the tree, which they did immediately.

"The tree hasn't been cut down yet, but I have been told that that will be hopefully the next step."

However, the mum-of-three think all Phoenix palms should be removed from playgrounds, reserves and public spaces.

"Phoenix palms are very dangerous and can cause infection and severe pain. They often go undetected in the skin too," Ms Meys said, urging people to be careful of them.

"Please be careful of them."

According to New Zealand landscaping company Second Nature, the fronds found on Phoenix Palms are sharp and toxic. 

"Phoenix palms pose a significant health and safety risk to anyone touching them. The hardened thorns found at the frond base are extremely sharp and are toxic. The tip will often snap off once they have penetrated the skin," the website states.

Phoenix palms are also found in Australia. 

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