It’s every patient’s worst nightmare — being given a diagnosis that will have devastating effects on yourself and your family. Unfortunately for more than 50 people who visited a memory-loss center in Ohio, this is what happened when the center told them that they had Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. The kicker was, many diagnoses the center issued were false. Fortunately, the clinic is closed now, but that hasn’t stopped patients like Shawn Blazsek from speaking out and seeking justice for the lies he was told.
Like many patients, Blazsek visited the memory-loss clinic while it was still operating due to concerns about his memory. Growing up, he played football and was an avid boxer, but ended up receiving quite a few concussions as a result. As he got older, he began to realize that he would often go “days without sleeping” and he was even “forgetting how to tie his shoes.” After visiting the clinic at the young age of 33, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Understandably the diagnosis came as a shock, and Blazsek immediately set out on the emotional roller coaster of planning things like “who would take care of his four kids if something happened to his wife.” He also thought a lot about how “hard it would be for them when he could no longer recognize his family.” He ended up stuffing “fistfuls of sleeping pills into a bottle and wrote himself a note, vowing to swallow all of them when he wasn’t able to remember the names of his children.”
Fortunately, it never came to that, because nine months later Blazsek discovered that he didn’t actually have Alzheimer’s. In fact, he learned “that the memory-loss center director who diagnosed him didn’t have a medical or psychology license needed to do so.” While relieved, Blazsek was upset about the situation, as were more than 50 others who had also been falsely diagnosed. Many had already started treatment for the disease, while some had planned out their final years with their families. Others “quit their jobs, sold possessions or took one last special trip. One killed himself.” For Blazsek, he “crammed years of fatherly advice into a matter of months, showing his son how to check the oil on a car and teaching his wife about the household finances.” According to Blazsek, he “was preparing her to be a single mom” because they guessed he only had a decade left to live, but even less before his memory was gone.
So what clinic in Ohio was handing out these terrible, false diagnoses? Who was in charge and who’s responsible for causing so much emotional turmoil for so many people? Well, the clinic was the Toledo Clinic Cognitive Center that opened in 2015 through the “Toledo Clinic, a multi-specialty medical center with more than 150 doctors.” It was opened by Sherry-Ann Jenkins, who has yet to charged. In fact, “attorneys on both sides would not say whether there is a criminal investigation.” However, court records show that some of the patients have been contacted by the Ohio Medical Board.
As it stands right now, each of the patients taking part in the lawsuit is seeking about $1 million in damages. According to the lawsuit, Jenkins “wasn’t authorized to order medical tests and her husband, a licensed doctor who is a partner in the Toledo Clinic, signed off on the tests and was sometimes listed as the referring physician on billing even though he did not see any of the patients.” Patients also sued the Toledo Clinic, arguing that it “should have known Jenkins lacked the training and credentials to treat and diagnose patients.”
In a statement issued by David Zoll, the attorney representing all those suing Jenkins, he said: “it’s not clear how many patients she saw.” He believes there might be others out there that “might not know they were misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s.” As for why Jenkins did what she did? Well, Zoll believes “she was motivated by greed, saying several patients were overbilled.” It would certainly explain how the clinic grew so quickly.
Fortunately, the clinic doors have since closed, so no one will have to experience the emotional roller coaster that so many others had to. For now, plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Jenkins are just waiting to see how things unfold.