Well, I really wasn’t ready to send my letter yet, but when the news media gets ahold of information, it forces me to do things quicker. We’ve been focused on getting ready for the holidays and not on what has recently transpired. The media has been on top of Sydney’s story but we again have chosen not to talk with them. When people hear a story about someone receiving a large settlement, they tend to think that greed is the motivation. That’s ok. People are entitled to their opinion. However, those are the people that don’t know Syd’s story, people that don’t know us. All I can do is pray for those people that they never walk in our shoes, that they never have to make decisions that you hope will change rules and regulations so this tragedy won’t happen again. Money is not a motivator. Money will NEVER bring our daughter back. For anyone to think that was our motivation, that’s probably why you don’t know us. The majorities of dental professionals always do the right thing and are very ethical. We hope this is a wake-up call to the very small minority of professionals in the dental field who are unethical. You are dealing with the life of a person not a “thing.” Is it easy to cut corners, for arrogance or greed? Eventually those corners will start to spiral and become a vicious circle. They may never get caught. But, what if they do? What if a life is lost because of it? Was it all worth cutting those corners? Wouldn’t doing the right thing all along be the logical choice? I wish it would have been because I wouldn’t be writing any of this and you wouldn’t be reading this and I could go on leading my boring, uneventful, private life.
Justice for Syd
It’s been two and a half years and we are finally able to give Sydney the justice and voice she deserves. Grieving the loss of a child is not the normal order of life. Not being able to let others know how our healthy child died added another dimension of grief and anger. In October, an out of court settlement was reached with the oral surgeon, Paul Tompach, who performed the wisdom teeth surgery on Sydney on June 9th of 2015. In addition to an insurance settlement, Mr. Tompach was personally responsible to pay an agreed-upon sum of money. While no amount of money will ever bring Sydney back or replace her life, we were satisfied that he was held personally accountable as well. In the majority of lawsuits, a Confidentiality Agreement and a No Admission of Liability (no admission of wrongdoing) are normally signed. In our lawsuit, Tompach and his attorneys waived both the Confidentiality Agreement and the No Admission of Liability.
How it all started
When we moved to Minnesota in 2005, we moved next door to Tompach’s (future) wife, Tracy. We were friends many years before she met Tompach. Steve’s family had a long history of 30 plus years with Tracy’s family. Sydney babysat her children often and once she married Tompach, she babysat his children too. They trusted Sydney with their children, knowing she would take care of them.
In the early part of 2015, we were advised it was time to have Sydney’s wisdom teeth removed. After spending a plethora on orthodontia to make her teeth look beautiful, we didn’t want her wisdom teeth ruining that smile. It seems to be “a right of passage” as a teenager to have your wisdom teeth removed. I did, Steve did. Jack, yea, maybe not. The Tompach’s were at our home sometime after I knew Sydney would need to have her wisdom teeth removed and I remember the conversation as I stood in my kitchen so vividly. Tracy Tompach said, “He’s the best there is.” Those words haunt me daily. I trusted that my child would be taken care of just as they had trusted Sydney to take care of their children. And after all, we were friends. I made a call to his office to have her wisdom teeth removed and scheduled it for June 9, 2015. I asked if she needed to come in for a consult and the answer was, “no.”
On June 9th, 2015, Sydney and I arrived at Tompach’s office early and filled out the necessary paperwork…which, was mysteriously never found. Tompach came out to greet Sydney and me. He said he had looked at her x-rays and said it would be an easy surgery because her teeth were right at the surface. I walked back to the office with Sydney where her surgery would take place, stayed for a minute and then I made my way back to the waiting room. Little did I know, that would be the last time I would ever see her beautiful smile or hear the laughter in her voice.
As I sat in the waiting room for Sydney, Tompach’s receptionist approached me. Assuming she’s coming to tell me Sydney was done, the only words I heard were, “Sydney.” “Cardiac arrest.” Shock sets in and I couldn’t understand what was happening. Sydney and those two words don’t go together. She’s healthy. That couldn’t be right. There must be a mistake. She was only having her wisdom teeth removed. I’ll spare the rest. It’s a memory I wish I could erase but to this day, I can’t.
I recall Tompach eventually coming to the ER at Southdale Hospital, saying he doesn’t know what happened. He said he did everything he was supposed to. I was trying to save my daughter’s life and not judge him at the time. I even had the chaplain say a prayer for him that he doesn’t blame himself.
The Edina first responders, fire department and police department extended Sydney’s life that day and for that, we can’t thank them enough. Without them, we wouldn’t have had an extra six days with her. We also have to thank the University of Minnesota Children’s Masonic Hospital doctors and nurses for keeping her alive those 6 days and for being so gracious to our family and friends.
I still see her lying in that hospital bed, lifeless with all the machines and wires hooked up to keep her alive and all the split decisions we had to make. Our sole focus was on trying to save our daughter’s life. We wanted to bring her home no matter what state she was in. Blaming the doctor (Tompach) did not even cross our mind. As a matter of fact, I still socialized with Tracy, his wife, up until November 2015 and exchanged texts up until the spring of 2016. Sydney’s lifeless body had been through so much in the hospital and we are so thankful that she donated her organs to save so many others. Most of the time I forget she saved lives. I have to turn that thinking around and be grateful for those that still live on because of her checking that donor box on her driver’s license. It’s an unnatural feeling when you have to walk behind a hospital bed, as doctors and nurses line the hallway as a sign of respect, only to have the operating doors close behind your loved one and you know you’ve said you last goodbye.
After Sydney died, we were determined to find out if anything was physically wrong with her. We needed to know for Jack’s sake. We needed that peace of mind. After the autopsy report and other testing on her tissues, sometime in November of 2015, the possibility of Tompach contributing in Sydney’s death became a thought. Things just didn’t seem clear.
December 2015 – Still in the depths of our grief, we are dealing with sending tissues of Sydney’s heart to be tested for any genetic defects. In January of 2016, we received news that she had no genetic defects in her heart. At this point we were knee deep in our grief and knew an investigation would eventually need to be addressed. However, we were not mentally ready and decided it could wait. Steve and I have never been litigious so this was a road we never wanted to travel. The only time we ever dealt with an attorney was to have our will drawn up after the kids were born. Otherwise, we like to stay as far away from attorneys as possible. But we knew eventually, we needed to seek the truth of what really happened.
February 22nd, 2016 – The home phone rings. Caller ID says it’s the Star Tribune. I answer, ready with my pitch that I don’t need a newspaper subscription. It’s Paul Walsh from the Tribune asking us if we have any comment to the Minnesota Board of Dentistry temporarily suspending Tompach’s license. We are caught off guard and are unaware of any findings and wish to say nothing. Then the myriad of phone calls and media overwhelms us. Trying to process this information is more than we can grasp.
With the MN Board of Dentistry making the allegations about Tompach, “failed to provide appropriate oral surgery care, failed to appropriately manage a medical emergency and enabled dental personnel to perform tasks which exceeded their legal scope of practice”, it forced us to hire legal counsel sooner than later. This was a hard decision because our emotions were still so raw, yet it was an easy one once we knew that we had to be Sydney’s voice. She died in the hands of someone we had trusted. We were angry. We never gave up on her in the hospital and we weren’t about to give up fighting for her now.
The Internet can become your friend and I’ve had a lot of time to do some research. One of the things I Googled was the Hippocratic oath. A very short summary of the Hippocratic Oath can be described as, “First, do no harm.” The oath functions as a promise made by physicians to maintain high ethical standards in their practice of medicine.
We learned so much between March of 2016 and October 2017. Most of it is too heartbreaking to share because, as they say, “you can’t make this shit up.”
But…I will share some. Tompach did not take Sydney’s vitals before her surgery. He did not monitor her properly. He ignored her lips turning blue and continued on with removing her teeth. He did not respond to the medical emergency that was happening, nor did he respond in a timely manner. He wasn’t prepared. His crash cart was expired and some of the medications were expired. He left Sydney ALONE and waited in the hallway for the paramedics to arrive. This is like a captain jumping ship before his passengers. He had equipment that he was required to use but didn’t because he claims he didn’t know how to use it. It was a machine that required a $12 piece that would alert the first sign of a patient not breathing. This could have saved Sydney’s life. I would have gladly paid for this piece of equipment. He seemed to have cut so many corners…to put more money in his pocket? Because he felt the corners he cut, he’d always gotten away with, so why change? We’ll never know the specific motives. But it was all at the expense of a life…Sydney’s life…someone he personally knew.
Our family lives our life being honest; being respectful; being the best persons we can be; living by the law of God. We’ve lived our lives treating others as we would want to be treated and that’s what we instilled in Sydney and Jack. We are by no means perfect and we sin everyday, but we know that when we sin, we don’t want continue to make the same mistakes. We change our behavior. We have many mottos in our family that we live by and that we all signed…even Sydney. One is: Ask yourself – Common Sense or Non Sense? Another is: Will it cause permanent damage? Don’t do it!
I can’t help but think of the word self-centered. Did he become so consumed with his own needs and interests before his patients? The number of children’s lives he put at stake before and after Sydney’s surgery by not doing all these things is so appalling. He played Russian Roulette with every patient he had, before and after, and Sydney took the loaded bullet. Again, this was someone we knew…someone that we trusted…someone that trusted Sydney to take care of his children. Would he have treated his children the same way? Would he have just given up on CPR and left them alone? I know Sydney never would have told his children to go play in a busy street but that’s exactly what he did.
He posted an absolute appalling picture of he and his staff doing emergency training in July of 2016 on his Facebook page, SMILING. I wonder where that training was in June of 2015…and before! I wonder where the Minnesota State Dental Board was? According to their website, “The mission of the Minnesota Board of Dentistry is to promote and protect public health and safety; and ensure that every licensed dental professional practicing in the state meets the requirements for safe, competent and ethical practice.” Was there nothing in place to check his office and every other Dental office to be sure their equipment is up to date, their medicines are up to date, their training is up to date and they have appropriately licensed staff? Where is the ethics in all of this?
Another blow to us came in January of 2017. Tompach and his attorney were blaming us for his business closing down, that he’s had so many expenses to satisfy the (allegations) against him from the Dental Board like… emergency training. I wondered if he knew how much money it takes to bury a loved one. The last straw was when he and his attorney continued to say he was the victim in all of this. Really? He still walks around everyday, has a spouse, his children AND a job and I guess, a BMW. Our daughter will never have any of those thanks to him. He took the rest of her earthly life away from her, from us, from her brother, her family and her friends. Yes, I agree. He is a victim. But he is a victim of his own unethical behavior.
We are thankful we can put him and this lawsuit behind us and really begin to heal. It’s been hard to be silent for so long. It feels great to be able to give Sydney a voice. She CAN Rest In Peace now. We told her we’d never give up on her and we didn’t. Sydney’s death was clearly preventable.
John 8:32 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”