‘I couldn’t do anything,’ says Kansas mother after 3-year-old dies following dental procedure

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A Kansas mother is looking for answers after her 3-year-old son died following a dental procedure. 

Nancy Valenzuela, a mother of three from Scott City, said she took her son, Abiel Valenzuela Zapata, into Tiny Teeth Pediatrics Dentistry because he needed teeth pulled after a gum infection. She said she thought it would be a simple procedure.

“We didn’t expect to come out of there without a child,” said Valenzuela. 

Abiel, who was only a month away from turning 4, died Tuesday after being transported to a Wichita hospital.

Valenzuela said after visiting two dental offices in southwest Kansas, she was told her son needed some teeth removed. She said he was fine before he went into surgery. She said he cried when he had to get a shot, but she reassured him.

“I told him, ‘Papi, everything’s going to be okay. You know you’re fine,’” said Valenzuela. 

Wichita police officers later responded to a 911 call at the dental office and filed an incident report about what they found.

According to the report Abiel was doing fine for about 30 minutes under sedation.

In the report the Wichita Police Department sergeant wrote that “[redacted] was brought in for several procedures this morning around 0700 hrs. They brought him back and he was a little scared but not super scared or anxious…. he was fine for about 30 minutes under sedation while they [redacted].”

The report went on to say that around 7:50 a.m. “they gave [redacted] the [redacted] and that is when his right cheek swelled up” and the boy’s heart rated started to slow. The report noted that the boy was given something, although the details were redacted from the report, “to try to increase his heart rate when his pulse stopped and they started CPR.”

Shortly after, the boy was taken to the hospital, where he later died. The incident report released to KSN redacted identifying information about the patient and other specifics about the procedures being performed.  

According to the report, the doctor said in his career, he had never seen anything like this, especially in someone without any known allergies.  

Although the police incident report listed the individual who administered IV medications for the sedation as an anesthesiologist, the website for the dental office does not list an anesthesiologist on staff. Instead it 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.

Valenzuela, who said she’d been asking the front desk for details, said she didn’t know the medical emergency at the office was for her son until he was brought out to the ambulance. 

“As a mother, you feel like you failed him because you didn’t do anything to protect him,” she said. “I really thought that I made the right choice.”

When she saw her son, he had passed away. She said that’s when she made a promise to him. 

 “‘I couldn’t do anything for you, but I will investigate.’ It’s what I told him. It’s the only thing I can do and bring awareness,” she said. 

She said it’s been hard on her other children, including Abiel’s older brother.

“I asked him later on in the night, ‘Where is Abiel,’ and he pointed up, and he said he is with God,” she said. 

She said the family would have to take it one day at a time. “He’s in a better place, he was just so young, and we loved him a lot,” said Valenzuela, who remembered her middle child as full of energy. 

Valenzuela said she’s unsure what happened during the procedure, but she’s waiting to see what is in the coroner’s report.

Monday afternoon, the attorney representing Tiny Teeth Pediatric Dentistry responded to KSN’s request for comment. Mark Maloney, Attorney at Hinkle Law Firm LLC, released the following 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.”

“There is no criminal investigation occurring at this time,” officer Trevor Macy said in a statement to KSN.

The family has set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for funeral costs.

Note: This story has been updated to specify information released in the report from the Wichita Police Department, adds a statement from the attorney representing the dental office and adds information from the dental office’s website on sedation procedures performed there.

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