‘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, the anesthesiologist said Abiel was doing fine for about 30 minutes under sedation. As the doctor was working on the boy’s lower jawline, the document said, his cheek swelled and his pulse slowed down.

CPR was started, and shortly afterward, 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.  

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.

Police officer Trevor Macy said in a statement to KSN that there is no criminal investigation underway “at this time.”

KSN reached out to the dental office, but the office was closed at the time, and KSN has not yet received a response.

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

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