Vadim Anatoliyevich Kondratyuk, a 26-year-old truck driver, was on his way from Truckee, California, to New York on January 24 when he began complaining of a toothache that resulted in complications that claimed his life within just six days, according to his wife.
The father of two began feeling pain in the lower left side of his mouth, his wife, Nataliya Kondratyuk told the Sacramento Bee. He made a pit-stop in Oklahoma to visit a dentist, who prescribed antibiotics for the infection. All seemed fine when Vadim’s pain subsided, but then Nataliya, 22, received a phone call that her husband’s mouth had gotten more swollen.
Vadim’s brother flew to New York to escort him back to his Antelope, California, home he shared with Nataliya and their 2-year-old and 11-month-old daughters. But on the way, Vadim’s breathing became labored and he grew pale, and he was rushed to a Utah hospital and placed on oxygen before being transported to a facility in Salt Lake City where he was put on dialysis.
Nataliya also told the publication that her husband was diagnosed with diabetes during his hospital stay. According to the Mayo Clinic, whether you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, managing your blood sugar level is key. The higher your blood sugar level, the higher your risk of tooth decay (cavities).
The infection from his tooth had spread to his blood and his lungs and Vadim died on Monday morning. Nataliya flew to Utah and was able to say her goodbyes before he passed, reports the Sacramento Bee.
“She is doing okay,” Nataliya’s brother, Vlad Kazimirets, tells PEOPLE of his sister. “But it’s been really hard for her.”
Nataliya told the Bee that doctors in Utah did “everything they could” to save her husband.
“They had him on medication. We prayed for him that day, that night, hoping he was going to survive. But God has his plan, and we had a talk with the doctors and they told us how this all happened. … It was just not healing how it was supposed to. It was just getting worse,” she told the Bee.
Vadim had also recently been to the dentist to fill a cavity on a different tooth than the one with the severe infection that led to his death, according to the Bee.
“I was waiting for that moment when he would come home and I thought I might take him straight to the emergency,” she told the publication. “He didn’t even make it home to me.”
Dr. Richard Niederman, chair of Epidemiology and Health Promotion at NYU College of Dentistry, says the infection was likely either a periodontal infection or a cavity.
“Any infection anywhere in the body can lead to death if it’s uncontrolled,” Niederman tells PEOPLE. “So if you have an infection in the tooth, that infection eats away at the tooth. It’s a bacterial infection, it releases acid, and the acid etches the tooth just like acid would etch glass. Overtime, that etching becomes a hole. That hole gets to the pulp, the nerves and the blood vessels and now the bacteria can enter the body.”
He adds that Vadim’s diabetes likely caused his inflammatory system to become impaired.
“There’s a host of studies indicating that people with diabetes are at greater risk of [cavities and tooth decay], periodontal disease, cardiovascular disease, you name it,” says Niederman. “It puts you in a higher risk category.”
As for whether a tooth infection-related death could be preventable, Niederman says, “Yes.”
“There are home and office methods to prevent it that are underused, particularly by dentists,” he says. “This is probably somebody who had had an ongoing problem that wasn’t addressed by anybody.”
A GoFundMe page set up by Vlad has raised over $242,000 for Nataliya and her children. According to the page, the money was used to help pay for the transport Vadim’s body from Utah to Antelope (the location of a memorial service) and for funeral and living expenses, and to “create a safety net for the future welfare of his young family.” Nataliya is not currently employed.
“We have been blown away by the love and kindness we have been shown by our friends, family, community and even kind strangers,” Vlad writes on the GoFundMe page. “Please continue to spread the word and support this young widow and her children in this difficult time.”
Vadim and Nataliya were both born in Ukraine, but raised in California. They met at church growing up and got married in 2012.
“I know he’s in heaven. He’s a happy person right now. He’s gonna be my angel for the rest of my life and he’s gonna help me through this whole time without a dad and without a husband,” Nataliya told KTXL.