Girl left in coma after dental visit going home after 4 months in hospital, father says

A little girl who went into a coma after being given anesthetic at an Edmonton dentist’s office will be released from the Glenrose Hospital at the end of January, her father says.

Amber Athwal, 5, has been in the hospital since Sept. 7 following a procedure to correct tooth decay.

Her father said the family is pleased at her progress after four months in hospital.

“She speaks some words, like papa, mama,” said Raman Athwal. “She giggles and she smiles whenever we talk to her. It’s very encouraging.”

The family usually takes Amber home on weekends, but this past Saturday was a special day — her fifth birthday.

“All of our family and friends, and my brother came over from Vancouver, and we had a big get-together,” Athwal said.

Athwal said his daughter is showing signs of recovery.

Amber Athwal

Amber Athwal was given general anesthetic for a dental procedure in September, 2016 before she went unconscious. (Athwal family)

 “Last week she passed her swallow test, and she can eat a little bit through her mouth,” he said. “So she can taste her favourite things, like cake. She tasted cake over the weekend.”

Sources told CBC News in October that Amber stopped breathing during the dental procedure in Dr. William Mather’s Scotia Place office. She suffered brain damage and was in intensive care at the Stollery Children’s Hospital for 12 days.

Mather, a dental surgeon and anaesthesiologist, sent out a written statement following the incident.

“This is an obviously traumatic event for the patient’s family and me and my entire staff,” the statement read.

Mather said at the time it would be “inappropriate” to make further comments to the media.

The Alberta Dental Association and College has said it will hold a hearing into the incident.

But Athwal said after four months, the college still hasn’t given the family an update.

Ramandeep Athwal

Raman Athwal is disappointed the Alberta Dental Association and College has not updated them on the investigation into Dr. William Mather. (CBC)

 “We feel disappointed,” he said. “Because until now, we haven’t heard from (the) dental association what went wrong or what they found in their investigation, what happened to Amber on that day.”

In October, Dr. Randall Croutze, the dental association CEO and registrar, said the college could not provide further details because an “extensive review” is still underway.

The Athwals are making their home wheelchair accessible for Amber’s homecoming, arranging for a porch lift on the outside of the house, and a stair-lift inside. They’ve also applied for funding to get a wheelchair accessible vehicle.