Laying bare her anguish for her child, an Eden Prairie mother whose daughter had a fatal seizure while getting her wisdom teeth removed has publicly and in unvarnished detail accused the doctor of cutting corners and “jumping ship” while his patient turned blue and lapsed into cardiac arrest.
Diane Galleger’s wide-ranging post this week on a CaringBridge page dedicated to her 17-year-old daughter includes a newly disclosed moment-by-moment account of that June 2015 day. She brought Sydney to Dr. Paul Tompach’s office in Edina and took a seat in the waiting room only to have her daughter leave in an ambulance before dying days later.
The details were neither disclosed publicly during a state licensing board investigation that led to Tompach temporarily losing his right to practice nor in any publicly available Hennepin County court documents connected to the lawsuit the family filed against the oral surgeon, which yielded a $2 million settlement last month.
Before the extraction began, Tompach “did not take Sydney’s vitals [and] did not monitor her properly,” she wrote.
Once the surgery was underway on the healthy and fit high school athlete, “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.”
She added that Tompach was ill-prepared for what was unfolding before him, saying his “crash cart [with emergency equipment and drugs] was expired, and some of the medications were expired.”
And describing a reaction akin to “a captain jumping ship,” she wrote that Tompach “left Sydney ALONE and waited in the hallway for the paramedics to arrive.”
Galleger wrote that Tompach had the necessary equipment on hand, but he didn’t use it because he claimed he didn’t know how. She suggested that the capnography monitoring equipment lacked a mask, “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.”
The lack of preparation for an emergency, Galleger wrote, meant Tompach “played Russian roulette with every patient he had, before and after, and Sydney took the loaded bullet.”
Now treating patients at U
Tompach had his license to practice suspended in January 2016 by the state Board of Dentistry, which ruled that he “failed to appropriately manage a medical emergency, and enabled medical personnel (i.e., an unlicensed dental assistant, licensed dental assistant, and student intern) to perform tasks which exceeded the legal scope of practice.”
His license was restored with restrictions after several weeks and then fully cleared on June 29, 2017, with the malpractice suit filed nearly a year earlier still unresolved.
Four days later and with his practice shut down, Tompach’s pursuit of a spot on the Dentistry School faculty of the University of Minnesota was accepted. Since then, he’s been teaching and treating patients two days a week on the campus of his alma mater as “a highly trained surgeon with a strong academic background,” school spokeswoman Erin McHenry said Tuesday.
Interim Dentistry Dean Dr. Gary Anderson said his school assisted the licensing board as Tompach took the steps necessary to have his license fully restored, as it has in other cases.
Anderson said school administrators knew nothing more about the circumstances of the teen’s death than “what was in the papers” and, now, what Galleger wrote in her CaringBridge post.
Anderson said his school has no second thoughts about hiring Tompach, pointing to the board’s “positive sense of his capability and competency.”
Acknowledging that Sydney Galleger’s death is “no secret to anyone around” the Dentistry School, Anderson said Tompach still is “well thought-of by the faculty, students and staff.”
‘Justice for Syd’
When the Gallegers moved to Minnesota in 2005, they moved next door to Tompach’s future wife, Tracy, a longtime friend of the Galleger family.
Sydney babysat for the Tompachs. “They trusted Sydney with their children,” Diane Galleger wrote, “knowing she would take care of them.”
Tompach “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.”
Tompach did not return calls seeking comment, and his attorney declined to comment as well.
Through her attorney, Diane Galleger declined an interview request.
Diane Galleger wrote that she found no solace in what she described as Tompach’s troubling behavior well after his patient died, including around the time the suit was filed in January 2017, when he and his attorney “were blaming us for his business closing down” because of the expenses to address the state licensing board’s enforcement demands.
“The last straw came when he and his attorney continued to say he was the victim in all of this,” she wrote. “Really? He still walks around every day, has a spouse, his children AND a job ... Our daughter will never have any of those thanks to him.”
She said the settlement wasn’t about greed but about justice for her daughter. “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.”
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482