Wilmington widow fighting for change after husband died from complications from oral surgery

One woman is looking to make change after her husband died suddenly following a visit to the dentist's office.

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — One woman is looking to make change after her husband died suddenly following a visit to the dentist’s office.

Shital Patel is hoping North Carolina can not only be “First in Flight,” but also “First in Fight.” She is advocating for change after her husband, Dr. Henry Patel, died after undergoing anesthesia to get dental implants.

“I cannot stand by or wallow in my grief and not do something about it when it’s preventable,” Patel said.

Dr. Patel went to Dr. Mark Austin, an oral surgeon in Leland. Towards the end of the procedure, Dr. Patel’s oxygen levels dropped and after an unsuccessful effort to place an endotracheal tube 911 was called. Dr. Patel later died at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

Now, the widow wants to see the same standard for oral surgeons as medical surgeons. She wants to make sure anytime someone is placed under deep sedation, a certified registered nurse anesthetist or anesthesiologist is in the room to monitor the patient.

Last week, Patel and her children went before the North Carolina State Dental Board proposing the new rules and sharing their story. Some oral surgeons opposed the change, saying it doesn’t happen to enough people. Patel says, according to her research, death after dental anesthesia is not very uncommon.

“This is not just an outlier, as some have called it, this is happening,” Patel said. “If Henry was the only person, he didn’t have to go, not like that. My children did not deserve to have their father taken that way. I didn’t deserve to be a widow at age 47.”

Some say adding the extra staff would make it too expensive for people to get procedures, but Patel believes it would only make people feel safer. Plus, oral surgeons already charge an extra fee for anesthesia.

“Why not pass that onto a CRNA or an anesthesiologist? Yes, it’s money out of your pocket, but think about it. It is for the greater good. It is for that patient who deserves to go home,” Patel said.

She says she may not be a medical professional, but she’s a fighter and she will continue to fight to make sure future patients are safe, just like her husband did.

“That would be my greatest goal, that my husband saved lives while he was alive, and hopefully even in death he could save other people’s lives,” Patel said. “Helping us pass these rule changes and letting North Carolina be the first state in the entire country to have such rules.”

If you would like to write to the NC Dental Board, they are accepting comments on this matter until March 3. You can email your comments to Bobby White at bwhite@ncdentalboard.org or Casie Goode at cgoode@ncdentalboard.org.

If you do not want to email the board, but would like to support the cause, Shital asks that you share the message on social media to help make others aware.

Categories: Local, New Hanover, New Hanover, Top Stories

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