An Edmonton family is speaking out about the dental visit they say left a four-year-old girl unconscious and in a coma, a state she remains in more than a month later.
On Thursday, Aman Preet Singh told Global News his niece – Amber Athwal – remains unconscious at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital where she was recently transferred to from the Stollery Children’s Hospital. According to Singh, Amber has opened her eyes and moved her feet but those were all uncontrolled movements.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Amber’s parents, who are not working in order to be at their daughter’s side around the clock. The family has another daughter who is just two-and-a-half years old.
According to the family, Amber has been in hospital since Sept. 7 and doctors told them an MRI showed the girl has a brain injury, although the severity of the injury has not yet been established.
The family says Amber was referred to a specialist and was supposed to receive an exam after a routine dental exam. When she met with the specialist, he told the family she needed work done and that a late cancellation meant they would be able to have the procedure done the same day.
The family said the specialist asked if Amber ate breakfast and when told yes, they allege he said it was OK and put her under with a general anaesthetic. They allege Amber suffered from a lack of oxygen during the operation and was rushed to hospital. Singh told Global News the specialist took Amber’s father to the lunch room, told him his daughter was still breathing and that paramedics were helping her out.
The Alberta Dental Association and College (ADA & C) confirmed it has “received notice of a reportable incident involving a dental patient from the administration of general anesthesia at an Edmonton dental clinic in early September.”
On Thursday, the ADA & C sent a statement to Global News in which it confirmed Dr. William Mather “has a restriction from administering sedation and/or general anesthetic on any person, until further notice,” although it declined to provide further details pending the completion of its own review.
Lucy Entwistle, a retired pediatric anesthesiologist who has worked at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, said while she doesn’t know what happened in this case, she is concerned by regulations that allow dentists to use general anaesthetics.
“I’m horrified,” Entwistle said, adding no other doctors are allowed to put a child under and do surgery at the same time. “It’s time for this to stop.”
She said she believes an anesthesiologist should also be present to ensure nothing goes wrong.
“If that happens to a child while they’re asleep in the dentist’s office, with only the dentist there and he’s busy taking the teeth out, that’s a big issue. That’s a deadly issue.”
According to the dental regulatory authority, there were 44,680 dental procedures in Alberta that required general anesthesia in non-hospital facilities in 2015. Of those, it said 36,003 were
performed on adult patients and 8,677 were performed on pediatric patients.
The ADA & C said it sets out comprehensive standards to ensure only qualified, trained and specially accredited people and facilities use general anesthesia.
-With files from Kendra Slugoski.