Where happiness, love and innocence once occupied the Odessa home of Gary and Maureen Myers, now there is a sorrow-filled void.
Four and a half years ago, the Myers lost their 39-year-old son Tommy.
“It’s just been like my heart’s just been ripped out of my soul,” Tommy’s mother Maureen said. “You know, I can’t tell you how much we loved that child.”
Tommy’s death certificate states he died from “complications of multidrug intoxication” and says he was “given drugs during a dental procedure.”
“Somebody tried to treat my son, who was not qualified for special needs, and he died,” Tommy’s father Gary explained.
It was Sep. 24, 2014. Gary accompanied Tommy for an appointment with Dr. Veronica Thompson at Grand Dentistry in New Port Richey.
“He had to be sedated with an IV every time that he’s gone to the dentist since 2002,” Gary said. “You know, he’s Down Syndrome, special needs, mentally challenged.”
Tommy didn’t understand what was going on around him but his Dad was there for reassurance.
“I’d stand behind the chair and I’d hold his shoulders back, you know. He’d look at me and I’d say, ‘Tommy relax,'” Gary tearfully remembered.
Dr. Thompson adminstered the drugs.
“As soon as she put the anesthetic in him, he started coughing. A real deep choking cough,” Gary recalled.
Gary claims Dr. Thompson assured him there was nothing to be concerned about. The coughing stopped, so Gary took a seat in the waiting room.
Within 40 minutes, his life changed forever.
“They came into the waiting room and said we had a problem,” Gary said. “I think they said that he stopped breathing.”
At that moment, paramedics were already rushing Tommy to Morton Plant North Bay Hospital in New Port Richey.
“He wasn’t breathing and he didn’t have a heartbeat,” Gary said.
“Then I got the phone call,” Maureen added.
She had been home taking care of her sister who had suffered an injury earlier in the week. Maureen got to the hospital as quickly as she could.
“The doctors were doing everything, absolutely everything that they could,” she remembered.
“He had a tube in his mouth, he had a respirator, he wasn’t breathing on his own,” Gary added.
“As soon as I looked at Tommy, I knew. I knew he wasn’t going to come back,” Maureen said as her voice cracked.
A chaplain asked about the family’s religious preference. Maureen told her Catholic.
“So a priest came and gave him his last rites,” Maureen said.
Tommy’s parents kept him on life support for two days.
“By this point, his kidneys are failing,” Maureen recalled. “He’s getting treated for pneumonia, he’s getting treated for diabetes.”
With no brain wave activity and no hope for recovery, the family decided to remove him from life support.
“It’s like somebody ripped a piece of my flesh out of me, and it’s never gonna come back,” Gary said of Tommy’s death.
“I can’t tell you how much we have suffered with the loss of our son,” Maureen added.
Florida’s Department of Health investigated Tommy’s death. It claims Dr. Thompson made several mistakes, including giving Tommy too much anesthesia too soon – four times the maximum safe dose for a healthy adult.
The state says Dr. Thompson also failed to follow emergency protocol and failed to administer a reversal drug. It added she performed “deep sedation” without a permit to do so.
The practice manager for Grand Dentistry sent 8 On Your Side this statement:
“While we cannot discuss protected health information, please know that Grand Dentistry of New Port Richey is committed to providing our patients with high-quality dental care. We ask that you respect the privacy of all parties involved. Thank you for understanding.”
Dr. Thompson has not responded to our request for comment for this report.
“We entrusted his health with her,” Maureen explained. “You know, she’s had no punishment for Tommy’s death and that’s not acceptable.”
Four and a half years later, the state has taken no action against Dr. Thompson’s license. She still practices at Grand Dentistry.
For Maureen and her family, nothing remains the same. Their special boy, loved so very much, drifted away quickly once life support was removed.
But not before his mother gently told him, “Just that we loved him, go to sleep.”