Advertisement

Amber Athwal showing progress after stem cell treatment, dad says

Click to play video 'Amber Athwal showing progress after stem cell treatment, dad says' Amber Athwal showing progress after stem cell treatment, dad says
The father of Amber Athwal, who suffered brain damage following a dental procedure four years ago, says she is improving after stem cell treatment in Thailand. As Kendra Slugoski explains, he believes his daughter will one day walk on her own again – Dec 7, 2020

Amber Athwal loves her sisters and Indian food.

The fact the eight-year-old can now communicate that to her family is monumental.

“She enjoys all — each moment,” said her father, Ramandeep Singh, from his Edmonton home.

“She stays happy, she plays a lot with her siblings.”

Amber, now in Grade 3, has come a long way. She is able to walk and feed herself with some assistance.

Four years ago, her parents didn’t know if she would survive.

On Sept. 7, 2016, Amber was rushed to the Stollery Children’s Hospital after she was put under with a general anaesthetic to undergo a dental procedure at the downtown office of Dr. William Mather.

Story continues below advertisement

She suffered cardiac arrest.

A hearing tribunal by the Alberta Dental Association and College (ADA&C) ruled Mather was guilty of unprofessional conduct.

Click to play video 'Hearing finds unprofessional conduct on behalf of Alberta dentist in Amber Athwal case' Hearing finds unprofessional conduct on behalf of Alberta dentist in Amber Athwal case
Hearing finds unprofessional conduct on behalf of Alberta dentist in Amber Athwal case – Feb 16, 2018

The college said in its ruling that Mather and his staff were not fully trained or prepared to prevent or deal with Athwal’s medical emergency.

Mather, a dentist for 43 years, retired before the tribunal.

Read more: Edmonton dentist has to pay $330,000 after patient left with permanent brain damage

After the hearing in 2018, the Edmonton Police Service confirmed it was looking into the college’s report and was consulting with the Crown prosecutor to determine whether criminal charges should be laid.

Story continues below advertisement

The Crown prosecutor’s office said the Mather matter was referred to the Edmonton Police Service for investigation. EPS consulted with the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service, however, EPS ultimately concluded that they did not have grounds to lay any charges on the matter.

Athwal’s father said he did not wish to proceed with any criminal charges against Mather.

“He’s an old man, he’s the age of my grandfather. He has kids, he has family, everyone. We don’t want to ruin their life.”

On Tuesday, Tasneem Ali, the registered nurse who monitored Athwal during the dental procedure, was scheduled to attend a virtual hearing before the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA).

During the CARNA tribunal hearing Tuesday morning, legal counsel for the governing body said Ali agreed to the allegations — that she failed to deliver basic life support and appropriate nursing care to Amber Athwal.

The hearing also stated Ali knew or ought to have known she would have to practice her basic life support (BLS) skill and to maintain her BLS knowledge and skill, which she failed to do.

“Leaving a room, even for a few seconds, in the context of a patient recovering from anesthesia and surgery is very, very grave,” said Vita Wensel, conduct counsel for CARNA.

Story continues below advertisement

“While this patient was recovering from surgery, Ms. Ali did make some grave errors regarding monitoring, regarding documentation, then furthermore, when an emergency arose there were further errors regarding her response and actions after an emergency had occurred.”

Wensel added the complaints director was seeking a finding of unprofessional conduct.

Ali had already resigned permanently — the sanctions by CARNA prevent Ali from practising nursing in the future.

CARNA finished the hearing by stating the ruling protects the public’s interests and recognizes the serious and tragic outcome on the patient and her family.

Click to play video 'Hearing finds unprofessional conduct on behalf of Alberta dentist in Amber Athwal case' Hearing finds unprofessional conduct on behalf of Alberta dentist in Amber Athwal case
Hearing finds unprofessional conduct on behalf of Alberta dentist in Amber Athwal case – Feb 16, 2018

During Mather’s tribunal in 2017, Ali testified Athwal stopped breathing while the little girl was in recovery.

She told the hearing panel she was no longer registered as a nurse and was being investigated by her professional college.

Story continues below advertisement

Among the allegations, CARNA stated Ali failed to call 911, correctly perform CPR and practice her Basic Life Saving skills. CARNA also alleged Ali failed to appropriately monitor the patient during recovery from general anesthetic, and remain with the patient at all times during her recovery.

Athwal’s father said CARNA suggested suspending Ali’s licence without a hearing, but said he wanted the public tribunal because he “needs people to know what happened.”

He said he is glad CARNA is taking the incident seriously to ensure patient safety.

“It makes us emotional… whatever we dealt with, we don’t want any other kid to go with this thing.”

Ali and Mather were also both named in a $26.5-million lawsuit filed by Athwal’s family.

Read more: Dentist, nurse respond to $26M Amber Athwal lawsuit, allege pre-existing condition

The lawsuit has since been settled and the details sealed by the courts.

Meanwhile, the family is focused on Amber’s continued recovery. It’s been a slow process and last year her parents started to lose hope.

“Especially the last year, Amber wasn’t showing any improvement or recovery,” said Singh.

Story continues below advertisement

That’s when the family started to research regenerative stem cell treatment. They took Amber to Thailand in January, and relied on family funds and borrowing to pay for the treatment, which Singh said cost upwards of $50,000.

“We never thought twice about it and we went there straight away,” said Singh. “After the treatment, after three or four months, we started seeing the improvements, the changes.”

Amber Athwal, 8, with her sisters, Anahat and Avrose. Supplied

Amber’s parents still hope for a full recovery and to return to Thailand in 2021 to try another round of stem cell therapy — and continue with treatments until there is no more progress.

“Maybe next year Amber will be able to walk on her own. That’s what we are hoping.”