Raman Athwal is glad to hear the Alberta Dental Association and College is looking into its rules regarding deep sedation and general anesthesia. But, for his family, it comes too late.
“Everything has changed. On the third of September, we moved to a new house and we were having a house-warming function. We were all happy… Amber was dancing. She was celebrating. We were all together.
“After this incident… we are in a deep shock. We still can’t believe that this thing happened to Amber.”
On Sept. 7 his four-year-old daughter was rushed to the Stollery Children’s Hospital after a dental visit that turned into “a nightmare.”
The family says, after an exam, they were told by a specialist Amber needed a dental procedure done that 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.
The family says Amber was transferred to the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital on Oct. 10 but remains unconscious. According to the family, doctors said an MRI showed the girl has a brain injury, although the severity of the injury has not yet been established.
“Amber is recovering but she’s not awake yet,” Athwal told Global News. “She’s opening her eyes. She can move her limbs but these are uncontrolled movements. We are hoping the best for her.”
He said his little girl doesn’t recognize her parents.
“We are worried a lot. We think she’s in pain but she can’t tell us. She cries,” he said. “We pick her up and put her in our lap but still that doesn’t help. We don’t know what she’s going through.”
The family is desperate for answers.
“Doctors are still telling us to wait,” Athwal said. “They keep on saying that she will recover but they don’t know how much she’s going to recover, how her future is going to be.”
While the whole family is suffering, the situation is especially difficult for Amber’s younger sister Anahat, who is two-and-a-half.
“She still can’t understand what happened to her sister, why she’s not waking up, why she’s not getting out of the bed, why she’s not playing with her,” Athwal explained.
He wants to speak with the health minister directly. Athwal wants to know why a dental procedure left his daughter in a coma and what is being done to prevent this from happening again.
“Until we hear anything from the government or from Alberta Health Services – why this happened or what happened to Amber – we are not allowing the doctors to sedate her again.”
On Tuesday, the deputy minister of health said a meeting with the Athwal family had been scheduled for this week. Amber’s father confirmed to Global News they were meeting with the health minister on Wednesday.
On Oct. 28, the Alberta Dental Association and College decided to “immediately suspend” the practice of allowing one dentist to provide deep sedation or general anesthesia while also providing dental treatment.
While Athwal thinks this change is a step in the right direction and must become permanent, it won’t change things for his daughter.
“It is too late,” he said. “We moved to Canada for the better health care and better system. We never thought that this would become a nightmare.”
Athwal and his wife both left their jobs to be with Amber in hospital and focus on helping her recover.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the family.
“We got an overwhelming response,” Athwal said. “I’m very thankful for the people who supported our family… I think one day Amber will recover and she will recover 100 per cent.”
The dental association confirmed it had “received notice of a reportable incident involving a dental patient from the administration of general anesthesia at an Edmonton dental clinic in early September.”
The association also said 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.
The minister of health said Monday she hadn’t been informed directly about the decision by the dental college but, in light of what has happened, she supports the move.
“It seems like this is a reasonable step while they do the review and determine best steps, but obviously protecting patients’ health and well-being should be the number one priority,” Sarah Hoffman said.
She added the college provides oversight and outlines best practices. It also has a significant role in “policing and supporting” its membership, Hoffman said.
With files from Phil Heidenreich, Global News