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Son finally learns where nursing home sent mother's body

Constantin Stanescu now knows the location of his mother's body. It's in the Erie County Medical Examiner's Office.

He says that's one of the few details he has learned since a Buffalo nursing home surprised him recently when he called to check on Teodorina Stanescu, 83.

"Oh her," a nursing home employee told him.

"She passed away over a week ago."

Constantin Stanescu, who lives in Sonoma County, Calif., knew his mother had been in failing health in the Buffalo Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing on Delaware Avenue.

Still, he says the nursing home should have called him immediately upon his mother's death.

A spokesman for the home said its staff did try to call him several times. He didn't pick up.

Stanescu insists that's not true and has asked the home for a phone log that would prove the claim.

An Erie County employee, he said, contacted him after seeing news reports of the episode to tell him the Medical Examiner's Office has the body.

"We would have contacted you sooner if information had been available to us," Social Welfare Examiner Samuel Caruso said in a follow-up email that Stanescu shared with The Buffalo News.

Through Caruso, Stanescu learned his mother died April 6, 10 days before her death was revealed to him Thursday.

The home had no place to store the body indefinitely, so it was moved to the Medical Examiner's Office. But an autopsy is unlikely, Stanescu learned, because the nursing home's doctor will sign off on a cause of death.

Stanescu said he still does not have a death certificate and does not know what caused the demise of his mother, a Romanian immigrant who worked as a paid housekeeper in Queens for many years.

Was it complications related to her diabetes? Shortly before her death she had lost her  appetite, and the nursing home's staff considered inserting a feeding tube, Stanescu said.

Or, he wonders, was it complications from Covid-19? Teodorina Stanescu had been fighting pneumonia, he said. Was she actually showing a symptom of the virus? Did the loss of appetite stem from a loss of taste and smell? Some Covid-19 patients say their sense of smell waned as the virus took hold.

A nursing home source told The News that Teodorina Stanescu was never tested for Covid-19 because she did not display symptoms of the virus.

Constantin Stanescu said that in one of his calls to the Buffalo Center, he had asked a nurse if the home had cases of the coronavirus.

There were no cases on the fourth floor, where his mother was placed, he was told.

Stanescu wishes he had been more skeptical at the time.

"As if Covid-19 doesn't know how to take the elevator," he said Tuesday.

The Medical Examiner's Office wants to hear from him about his plans for the body, he said. But he doesn't want to do anything with the body until an independent expert states a cause of death.

At nursing homes, Covid-19 deaths but little public data

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