Amber Athwal showing progress after stem cell treatment, dad says

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.

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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.

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Global News had requested an update from Alberta Justice and the Crown prosecutor’s office, but had not received any clarification or confirmation before our deadline.

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, is scheduled to attend a virtual hearing before the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA).

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.

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.”

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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.

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.
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.

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

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