Parents sue Wichita dentist and others over death of their 3-year-old boy

Kansas News

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The parents of a 3-year-old boy who died following a dental procedure in Wichita are filing a lawsuit over his death. In the lawsuit, their lawyer has named the dentist, the dental office, the nurse anesthetist (CRNA), and the anesthesia company.

Angel Zapata and Nancy Valenzuela of Scott City are the parents of Abiel Zapata Valenzuela, who died in early July.

Before his appointment in Wichita, Abiel’s mother says she took him to two dental offices in southwest Kansas and was told he would need to have some teeth removed because of a gum infection. She says her other children ate and drank the same things as Abiel but did not have the same dental problems.

According to the lawsuit, she investigated to find the safest, most appropriate dental office for her son and chose Tiny Teeth Pediatric Dentistry in Wichita, four hours from their home. The appointment was on July 6. The lawsuit says the dentist was Dr. Scott White and the nurse anesthetist was CRNA Jeremy Salsbury.

Timeline of events on July 6, according to the lawsuit:

  • Before procedure – History and evaluation of Abiel’s medical condition shows no heart or lung issues, no known drug allergies
  • Around 7:15 a.m. – CRNA begins anesthesia with propofol and ketamin, dentist documents no appearance of a bad reaction
  • Minutes before 8 a.m. – CRNA gives another dose of propofol
  • Minutes before 8 a.m. – CRNA alerts dentist about irregular heart rhythm and inadequate patient ventilation
  • 8 a.m. – No pulse, CPR started, 911 called
  • 8:03 a.m. – CRNA places an endotracheal tube, then CPR resumes
  • About 8:06 a.m. – EMS arrives, gets an update and CPR continues

According to the lawsuit, the EMS documentation says, “The CRNA reports that swelling was noted to be present after administration of the lidocaine. Worried for airway compromise, the patient was then intubated by the CRNA.”

Shortly after EMS arrived, the ambulance took Abiel to a hospital where he died. In a previous interview with KSN, Abiel’s mother said she did not know why the ambulance was at the dentist’s office until she saw Abiel being wheeled out on a stretcher. She had been unaware there was any problem.

In addition to naming Dr. White and CRNA Salsbury, the lawsuit names Special Anesthesia Services, P.A. and Tiny Teeth Pediatric Dentistry, Inc.

The family’s lawsuit says it was below the standard of care for the defendants to allow Abiel to become inadequately ventilated. It claims the lack of air led to severe hypoxia and cardiac arrest. The lawsuit claims the defendants were negligent and breached their respective duties to Abiel.

Abiel’s parents are represented by Brad Prochaska of Prochaska, Howell & Prochaska, LLC. He says they are seeking judgment against each defendant in excess of $75,000. The lawsuit includes a constitutional challenge to KSA 60-1903(a), which limits how much a jury can award in a wrongful death lawsuit.

KSN reached out to each defendant for a response.

In our original story in July, we reached out to the attorney representing Tiny Teeth Pediatric Dentistry. Mark Maloney, Attorney at Hinkle Law Firm LLC, sent this statement:

“Tiny Teeth Pediatric Dentistry is devastated by the death of Abiel Valenzuela Zapata. We are praying for the family during this time and ask for the community to do so, as well. Like Abiel’s family, we, too, want to understand how this tragic event may have occurred. Our practice has never experienced an incident like this, and we had no reason to expect this procedure would be anything other than routine. We would like to thank the EMS first responders who arrived only a few minutes after we called 911. They continued the CPR efforts we had begun and worked feverishly to save Abiel.”

Tiny Teeth Pediatric Dentistry issued the following statement Tuesday, August 17:

We are disappointed that Mr. Prochaska has filed this lawsuit so prematurely. Many details
spelled out in his filing are incomplete at best, and inaccurate at worst. Without the coroner’s
final report, Mr. Prochaska can only speculate as to what occurred.

Like Abiel’s family, we, too, want to know exactly what caused this child’s death. We continue
to focus on the facts.

Tiny Teeth Pediatric Dentistry grieves deeply over the loss of Abiel. We are keeping his family in our thoughts and prayers.

The website for the dental office says, “IV sedation at Tiny Teeth Pediatric Dentistry is administered by Special Anesthesia Services, a group of Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) who specialize in caring for patients needing sedation in the dental office setting. Your child’s sedation will be performed solely by the CRNA, and they will not perform any other component of the dental procedure.” The website also has a section explaining sedation procedures with children.

Brian Niceswanger is the attorney representing Salsbury. He says Salsbury is not only a qualified and carrying nurse anesthetist, but he is also a veteran.

Niceswanger also thinks the lawsuit is premature, saying he has not seen the final coroner’s report yet.

“From our standpoint, we had the case reviewed by multiple highly qualified experts after the event,” he said. “The reviews we received back said everything was done appropriately.”

Niceswanger says Special Anesthesia Services and Salsbury are both highly competent providers of anesthesia services and have no track record of problems.

“It’s just a sad situation,” he said. “Nobody ever wants to have something bad happen to a patient, much less a three year old.”

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