As the family of Amber Athwal waits for their lawsuit to go forward after they say the little girl suffered brain damage following a visit to the dentist, a group of Edmontonians are organizing a fundraiser to help the family with expenses.
“I sort of approached Raman (Athwal, Amber’s father) and a friend of his and we got… he wasn’t sure where to turn so I decided to help out,” Nigel Logan, a co-organizer of next month’s fundraiser, said on Wednesday.
Watch below: On June 14, 2017, over 100 people showed up to the Maharaja Banquet Hall in Edmonton for a fundraiser to help the family of Amber Athwal, the young girl who fell into a coma after a visit to the dentist last year.
Five-year-old Amber Athwal was rushed to the Stollery Children’s Hospital on Sept. 7, 2016 after undergoing a dental procedure at Dr. William Mather’s downtown office where she was put under general anaesthesia. Her family said she went from being a healthy, functional then-four-year-old to being unable to talk, walk or recognize her parents.
In February, the Athwal family filed a lawsuit last against Mather and eight members of his staff for $26.5 million in damages.
The lawsuit claims Amber suffered “profound neurological injuries” after being deprived of oxygen and that while in recovery, a nurse noticed Amber was not breathing, she did not have a heart rate and her oxygen saturation level was zero. The lawsuit said a nurse noticed this about 20 minutes after the surgery ended and Amber was placed in recovery. The lawsuit claims about 15 minutes later, another person at the clinic called 911.
READ MORE: Dentist, nurse respond to $26M Amber Athwal lawsuit, allege pre-existing condition
Watch below: The family of a little girl who suffered brain damage after being put under general anaesthetic at the dentist’s has launched a $26-million lawsuit.
“Right now… she’s very much aware now, she’s very much conscious, she can understand what we say to her and she smiles, she responds, but the bad thing is she can’t speak,” Raman said Wednesday.
“She can only speak a few words and her body is still recovering. The body can only work up to five, seven per cent.”
Logan said he first met the Athwals when he was working for their local MLA, Edmonton-Mill Creek’s Denise Woollard. He said all three levels of government weren’t able to provide the Athwals with all of the financial support they needed.
READ MORE: Alberta health minister meets with family of girl who fell into coma after dental visit
“He (Raman) only lives a few blocks from me and I couldn’t help but think, ‘Well, this tragic situation happened, it could happen to anybody and he’s basically my neighbour,’” Logan said.
“The other part of it was, he’s only been in the country for a few years and he didn’t really have the connections that perhaps you or I may have to go for help when you need it.”
So Logan, along with others, leapt into action to organize a fundraiser for the family, which will be held at a south Edmonton banquet hall next month.
A fundraising dinner is being held for Amber Athwal on June 14, 2017.
“What they need is a wheelchair-equipped vehicle,” Logan said when asked what the proceeds would go to. “It turns out it can cost in the area of $60,000 because you have to buy the vehicle and then have it shipped to I think Vancouver or Toronto to actually get equipped. Right now, the way they have to do it is basically taxis, the wheelchair-equipped taxis, and that adds up.
“While they’re dealing with the court case, they need help now.”
He said any additional money raised will go to a sort of trust fund to help pay for Amber’s future needs like new wheelchairs.
“We are very thankful to the people who already helped and who are trying to help us in the future as well,” Raman said. “They are doing very much for Amber, for us because we (Raman and Amber’s mother) aren’t working – we’re giving all of our attention and our time to Amber so that she’ll recover as much as she can.”
READ MORE: Edmonton family says little girl left in coma after dental visit
In a statement of defence, Mather and his business “deny that they were negligent or in breach of any duty or in breach of any contract” and say if any injuries were sustained, they were not caused by any dentistry services performed or provided. His lawyer also claims Amber’s family could be considered guilty of “contributory negligence” including “failing to provide a proper medical history… to Mather and/or his staff and failing to provide accurate information to Dr. Mather and/or his staff regarding the food and beverages consumed by [Amber] prior to the dental extractions.”
None of the allegations made in the legal documents have been proven in court.
Mather will be sent before a tribunal to determine if he is guilty of unprofessional conduct. The Alberta Dental Association & College has set the hearing for Oct. 16.
The fundraising dinner for the Athwals will take place on June 14 at 6 p.m. at the Maharaja Banquet Hall located at 9257 34A Avenue N.W. For more information, click here.
-With files from Emily Mertz.