Family says pandemic delayed treatment for their loved one's fatal illness

Posted at 9:31 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 23:41:35-04

AKRON, Ohio — An Akron family was forced to say goodbye to their loved one and they say the healthcare system’s extreme focus on treating coronavirus patients may be to blame.

“Had the corona not been here, I think they would’ve put him right into the hospital, done the test and had this done in a matter of a week instead of five weeks and he was dead,” said Marian Shank.

Shank and her son Roland never thought they’d experience loss during the pandemic. Shank says her husband, Charles, was healthy. As Charles started feeling he ill, Shank says, “he said I can’t believe I got this now when a pandemic is happening because now I’m doomed.”

The Shanks were married for 33 years.

While looking at an old picture, Shank said “when I saw him with his Norton Commando, I just thought he was the coolest guy ever. I had to have him.”

She says her husband was healthy and their son was looking forward to spending more time with his father.

“I found myself, at a barn, a 1957 dodge coronet,” Roland Shank said. “We were going to restore it here, this year but you know.”

Charles Shanks' health started to take a turn in February.

“By march he had lost 25 pounds not trying to and he was feeling very weird and he was having waves of what looked like a seizure type thing,” she said. “I was taking his blood pressure his temperature every day all of that was normal the only thing about it was he was becoming more and more demented.”

Shank's primary care doctor, who did not want to speak on camera, told News 5 his symptoms were not normal. Marian Shank says they agreed to an EEG and CT scan, but she says the coronavirus pandemic delayed the test results which showed a cyst on his brain. Their doctor recommended he see a neurologist. However, due to state orders putting off non-essential surgeries and emergency room visits, Shank says they were forced to see a neurologist virtually.

“The doctors were saying this wasn’t going to kill him I just figured I’d go along with whatever we were told to do,” she said.

After seeking second opinions, more tests were ordered.

But time ran out.

Charles Shank died on April 27 at home. Yet the cause is still unknown.

“It was one thing for him to have to pass away but it was another thing for them to never be willing to even answer as to what it was that killed him,” Marian Shank said. “The hospital won’t do an autopsy because he didn’t die at the hospital; he died at home. The coroner won’t do an autopsy because he already had a medical problem even though that’s not what killed him. We know he had a cyst in his brain, but we’ve had three neurologists say that’s not what killed him. It’s still a mystery.”

The Shank’s wish to keep the names of those doctors and hospitals involved in his care anonymous. However, we reached out to the those listed regarding the neurologists. One hospital responded saying with the following statement:

Federal privacy regulations prohibit us from discussing a specific patient’s case. We take any patient safety complaints seriously and work with public health authorities to investigate and ensure all appropriate steps are taken to care for our patients. Our hearts go out to the family and we offer our sincerest condolences. We encourage anyone who feels they are in need of urgent medical care to visit a hospital emergency department in their community.

While their questions continue to go unanswered, the Shank's are trying to move forward.

“My father was a man who was proud. He was loyal. He was a great man,” said Roland Shank. “The system failed us.”

They’re also hoping no one else experiences what they have.

“The only thing that gives me comfort is to know that when he died, he didn’t have any pain,” Marian Shank said. “There’s five hospitals in the city of Akron, pick a hospital that has to deal with corona and run the other hospitals like they normally would’ve run and that way this wouldn’t have happened.”