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Teen Suffers Cardiac Arrest During Dental Procedure

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GALLEGER FAMILY/CARINGBRIDGE.COM GALLEGER FAMILY/CARINGBRIDGE.COM

A 17-year-old girl in Minnesota is clinging to life after suffering cardiac arrest during what should have been a routine dental procedure.

Sydney Galleger was having her wisdom teeth pulled last week when something went terribly wrong. "All went good until the very end when her blood pressure shot up and her pulse dropped and then she went into cardiac arrest," her mother, Diane Galleger, wrote on the CaringBridge web page the family set up to post updates on her condition. She said the doctor quickly started CPR and called 911, then Sydney "was immediately rushed to the hospital where more doctors and nurses than I could even count, started working on her."

Sydney was stabilized and transferred to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, but her condition took a turn for the worse. The family says she suffered seizures and was put on a ventilator to help her breathe.

Two days after her dental appointment, Sydney's brain was swelling dangerously and she was taken into surgery to have a drain put into her skull to reduce the pressure. Unfortunately, it did not help; the swelling in her brain continued and cut off the drain. Doctors told the family there was nothing more they could do.

"We want to rewind to Monday where we had our happy, healthy, funny, beautiful 17 year old daughter," Sydney's mother wrote in a heartbreaking post on Friday. "As we look at all the pictures covering her hospital walls, we can't believe this same happy, healthy, funny, still beautiful daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, and friend is lying in that hospital bed. We can't comprehend it yet and not sure when we will."

CBS Minnesota reports the family has received an outpouring of love and support from the Eden Prairie community, including Sydney's classmates and lacrosse teammates.

"When I think about it, it just makes me reflect on my own life and my own friends and family," student Serena Rutledge said.

"She really did touch so many lives," added fellow student Kate Piechowski.

Such tragic complications from dental surgery are exceedingly rare. Last year, a Maine teenager died after having his impacted wisdom teeth removed; that case turned out to be caused by a rare bacterial infection.

"It is a rare event, thank heaven," Dr. Mark Wolff, D.D.S., Ph.D., a professor at New York University College of Dentistry, told CBS News. "We like to think of having wisdom teeth out as a casual occurrence, but it can be an extensive surgery, it's important to remember that. It is surgery and it should be managed judiciously."

Wolff was not involved in Sydney Galleger's care and could not comment on her specific situation, but he noted that any time a patient receives anesthesia, especially general anesthesia, there is a certain degree of risk. "We like to use as light a sedation as possible, as risk goes up as sedation gets deeper," he said.

Before any procedure, Wolff advised, "parents should be making sure the dentist they utilize is well equipped for emergencies." He noted that the staff in Galleger's case "started CPR and transferred her to the hospital, which is the right thing to do."

Galleger's family says she expressed a wish to become an organ donor if the time ever came, but for now, they continue to hold out hope despite the odds. Though they say the teen meets 9 out of 10 criteria for being considered brain dead, she is able to breathe on her own. "Sydney is a fighter and seems to be upholding that rule right now and is defying the [doctors'] expectations," her mother wrote Saturday. "She is a fighter. She is still alive."

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