Girl In Coma After Trip To Dentist - Prayin' Family' Says They Won't Consider Pulling Plug

A Chicago 5-year-old named Diamond Brownbridge fell into a coma after being sedated at a dentist's office this weekend, and allegedly suffered a heart attack.

Television station WMAQ reported said that Diamond's family has been told that the girl is brain dead and her vital organs are severely damaged. Doctors told the family that they must decide when to take Brownridge off of life support.

The dentist who treated the girl spoke exclusively with the Chicago Sun Times on Tuesday.

Dr. Hicham Riba told the paper that he feels like he's being treated like a criminal even though, he said, "I am a very responsible person. I never intended to harm anybody."

In the published report, Riba said, "I don't think I will ever go back to a normal life after an experience like this."

The family of Brownbridge, who remained unresponsive at Children's Memorial Hospital on Wednesday, said they are not going to take her off life support.

"It's a wait-and-see type of game," said her mother, Omettress Travis. "They haven't offered us any hope, but we have that in ourselves -- we're a prayin' family."

The dentist has been in contact with family twice to see how Diamond is doing.

Family described the 5-year-old as a charter school student who is full of life, receiving A's and a few B's, and as a little girl who loves church.

"I told her 'Time to come home. Wake up. Daddy needs you at home,'" said her father, Paris. "She's got to come home. Her daddy loves her (and) misses her. She's my world."

As the family waited at Children's for any sign of improvement, they encountered more and more unanswered questions.

The child's mother, who is a medical assistant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said that she doesn't understand why she immediately noticed that her daughter was in distress and the dentist in charge of the procedure did not.

"I just want to know, what did they give my baby to make her just lose her life?" Travis asked.

Diamond went to Little Angel Dental, a storefront office, to have two cavities filled and her front, bottom teeth capped.

According to Travis, the dentist gave her a yellow liquid to drink, then nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. (Note: Previous versions of this story incorrectly referred to nitric oxide.) On top of that, Travis said, the dentists gave the 35-pound girl an IV sedation.

Travis said she was asked to leave the room while the dental work was done. When she returned, her daughter had no pulse and wasn't breathing.

"They did not monitor my daughter when she was having the work done," said the mother. "They also asked me to leave out of the room ... I didn't know why because I was going to sit there, but they said, 'You have to get out of the room.' ... At least if they weren't going to monitor her, I could have watched her."

WMAQ reported Monday that the office had no heart monitor or blood pressure cuff, instruments that are required by Illinois law when sedation is involved.

Last April, Diamond was sedated without incident at Children's Memorial when she had a broken arm. Family members said they don't know what went wrong on Saturday and they want the health department to shut down Little Angel Dental.

"He doesn't need a license," the girl's aunt, Danetta Dupree, said.

Dentist Defends His Practice

WMAQ learned from the Department of Professional Regulation that the dentist is licensed, with a special certification for sedation. The department indicated that it appeared the doctor has the correct certification for the work that was performed on Diamond.

Riba spoke with the station late in the day Monday at his home. He would not go on camera but said his thoughts and prayers were with Diamond and her family. Riba gave the station a written statement defending his practice.

"I have treated thousands of children since 1997 and many of my patients require intravenous sedation," Riba wrote. "I am board certified in pediatric dentistry, licensed for intravenous sedation and have always been in good standing with all licensing bodies."

Riba said that all sedated patients are monitored throughout their procedures, but he could not talk about any specific case because of privacy laws.

"We are cooperating with investigators and at this time. My office has canceled all intravenous sedation procedures," he added.

The director of pediatric dentistry at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Dr. Indru Punwani, said it was rare to use three sedations on a young child, but if a child undergoes deep sedation, there must be a finger monitor to measure oxygen, pulse rate and blood pressure.

"We monitor these very, very carefully," Punwani said. "The monitoring devices are such that even if the oxygen saturation goes a few points, we are monitoring it, and we have a stethoscope on the chest, so we are listening the chest."

This is the first complaint registered against Riba, according to the state's regulatory agency.

Little Angel Dental did not open for business Monday. Patient after patient showed up, only to find the doors closed and security gates locked.

Nathaniel Williams took his 3-year-old son to the office for a Monday appointment, and said he only learned the office was closed when he showed up.

"No one called," he said.

Williams said he was supposed to have his son, Nate, sedated for dental work.

"Now I'm having doubts. I've got to go and talk with my wife about the whole thing here," he said.

Williams said his 5-year-old daughter, Natalie, was put under sedation at Little Angel last month, and everything went well. But like other parents who learned of what happened to Diamond, Williams said that he was worried for his child's safety.

Diamond remained in critical condition on the second-floor intensive care unit on Monday afternoon.

"I believe that's a miracle baby. I'm hoping that God sees fit to bring her back to us, and she's going to be well," said the father Monday.

The dental office was open Sunday until 3 p.m., but no one returned a reporter's phone call.

WMAQ has not been told if there was a dental anesthesiologist or if there was an anesthesiologist nurse in the room.

The Chicago Health Department learned of the incident Sunday and is investigating.

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