The lives of 4-year-old Nevaeh Hall and her family has forever been altered when the result of a trip to the dentist was health failure so catastrophic the girl had to be taken by ambulance to the Texas Children’s Hospital and severe brain damage to the young girl.
The early January visit to Houston’s Diamond Dentistry has left Nevaeh unable to speak or walk after their sedation methods coupled with confining the 4-year-old in a restraining device called a papoose, drastically affected her. The day before her dentist appointment Nevaeh’s parents say she was running, laughing, and playing excitedly at a local Chuck E. Cheese, but Dr. Bethaniel (Beth) Jefferson has ensured that will never be a joy that the 4-year-old ever experiences again.
Nevaeh’s mother, Courissa Clark, told media outlets that her little girl went to the dentist to get some of her teeth capped and some others removed due to decay, but the procedure ended up lasting an unprecedented amount of time. Her parents were not allowed to be in the room with Nevaeh during the seven hours that Dr. Jefferson had her in the operation room, and the records later received show that the 30lb child was given five times the amount of sedatives required for someone her size. The papoose held the child confined for four of those seven hours, and both Nevaeh’s family and their attorney say the restraining device contributed to her brain damage.
The Chron reported that 23-year-old Courissa had taken her little girl to this dentist on at least one occasion before, and at the time, Dr. Jefferson had used the papoose to restrain her for a tooth capping procedure as well. The mother was also aware that it would again be used on this occasion but was not aware of the dangers and when the trouble started, she was not told.
“They made it seem like it was for her safety so she wouldn’t fall off the table or put her hands in her mouth… The whole time they just assured us that everything was OK”
The family lawyer, Jim Moriarty, says that the dentist essentially tortured the little girl. While her family was in the waiting room, Nevaeh was having seizures, her heartbeat rocketed up to 196 beats per minute, and her oxygen levels dropped to 49 percent. However, the dentist did not call the paramedics until four hours after her vital signs had shown signs of great distress. Moriarty and the family are issuing a warning to parents about the use of immobilizers during pediatric dental procedures.
“We’ve got to get the American public to understand: You cannot allow your child to be held in a restraint device without you personally being present.”
The Texas dental board has stated that the restraining device is only to be used in urgent circumstances or for uncooperative patients, and also recommend that a parent or guardian be present if the patient is a minor. Guidelines also suggest use of the restraining device may lead to serious “physical or psychological harm.”
Nevaeh Hall has since been diagnosed with dystonia, which means her brain damage causes involuntary muscle contractions, and is still in the hospital. It has been reported that her arms are in constant motion from the muscle spasms, and most days the little girl cries from agitation.
The executive committee of the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners temporarily suspended Dr. Bethaniel Jefferson’s licence and has scheduled a hearing about permanently revoking it later this month. According to the New York Daily News, this is not the first time the dentist has been reprimanded. In 2005, it was for not paying proper attention to the blood pressure and pulse of a patient, and again in 2012 for improper sedation.
The family of Nevaeh Hall plans to sue the dentist for the brain damage their child has suffered and only await a review of the medical reports by an expert to determine the extent of the alleged liability. Jim Moriarty has had great success suing pediatric dental clinics, and has even reached a $39 million settlement with a children’s dental chain in a case that also involved using restraints and not allowing parents to be present.
Courissa Clark is heartbroken about her child’s condition and knows that her family will never be the same.
“At this point there’s nothing else that can be done to get that same four year old back. It hurts to see her like that.”
[Photo by Goncharuk Maksim/Shutterstock]