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Dying message trapped in Facebook

Updated: Wednesday, April 2 2014, 02:23 PM EDT

Wayne County, N.Y. --- His wife left personal video messages for him and their daughter knowing she would die.  Now, a week after Shannon Wachal passed on Valentine’s Day, those messages are trapped on her Facebook account where she stored them.

"My hope is that I can get access to her account to get these videos even if it's just a short period of time that allows me to download the videos onto my computer and then watch them over however long it takes me to watch them,” said Shannon’s widower Charles Wachal.  “Also I want other people to realize the fact that Facebook can do this and if they have things on there that their family are supposed to get after they pass they're not going to.”

Why are the messages trapped?

The video messages are trapped because Shannon Wachal’s Facebook account is now a “memorialized page” which happens after Facebook determines a person has died.  That status locks down the page and prevents anyone from accessing the account to change any privacy settings that the account owner activated while they were alive.

In the case of Shannon Wachal, the plan before her death was to post these video messages to her own Facebook wall but set the privacy settings so only someone logged on in her name could view them.

"She told me that I just needed to log onto her Facebook and go into the video section and there they'd be and I'd be able to watch them,” explained Charles of what his wife said before she passed away.  “She didn't tell me how many, I don't know if it's one video or if there are ten videos I don't know, I just know that she told me they were there and she wants me to watch them.”

Charles Wachal explains the situation here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVz-7mV1CGo

A Facebook spokeswoman explained that Facebook memorializes a person’s page after they are informed of their death and verify the death with, documentation such as an obituary or news article.”  The spokeswoman pointed people to this link to learn more about that process:  https://www.facebook.com/help/150486848354038

Charles Wachal said he doesn’t know of any family members who personally informed Facebook of his wife’s passing but he wonders if Facebook detected this because his wife’s account and Fan Page were followed by hundreds of people and a post about her death was seen by more than 14,000 people.

Shannon Wachal’s Story

Shannon was born with Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2) which is a genetic disorder that causes benign tumors to grow throughout her body.  The tumors specifically target nerves and the brain and spinal cord.  

In the course of her life Shannon had nearly two dozen surgeries including five on her brain.  She went deaf at an early age and suffered other side-effects throughout her life while battling, literally, hundreds of tumors. 

"She not only had strength but she put herself out as somebody who didn't care about herself she cared about everybody else,” said Charles of how easy it was to fall in love with his wife. 

Shannon grew up in Virginia but earned a bachelor’s degree and was working her way towards a Master’s degree at R.I.T. when she met Charles at a bible study group for the deaf.  Charles said he courted her for a year and they were married in October 2012.  They spent their anniversary and many significant holidays in the hospital due to her surgeries. 

Despite her disorder Shannon was able to give birth to a daughter, now seven-month-old Abagail Grace.

"Her two goals in life that she prayed her entire life for was to get married and have a baby and that's what she was able to do and she knew she wasn't going to live long,” said Charles of his wife.

Shannon’s Life on Social Media

Shannon died on Valentine’s Day and her story was followed by hundreds, if not thousands, who knew her through social media sites like Facebook.

"My wife lived out her life in social media because of the condition she had she was deaf so she wasn't able to call people,” explained Charles.  “She was in the hospital a lot, she really needed the ability to talk to people through Facebook and impact lives through social media and she did.”

Recently her family began sharing her story on sites including YouCaring.Com where they also asked people to contribute to seemingly endless medical costs.  Shannon’s condition led the couple to move back home with Charles’ parents and limited their income despite a growing mountain of medical bills.

Those requests have now included donations for funeral costs.  http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/in-loving-memory-of-shannon-wachal-neurofibromatosis/115104

13WHAM News contacted Facebook on Friday and a spokeswoman responded after looking into the problem.  The company contacted Charles in the afternoon and he says they told him their legal team is looking into it but they will not unlock his wife’s account.  It is possible they can obtain those videos for him but a commitment was not made over the phone, according to Charles.  He said they promised to call back on Saturday after his wife’s funeral.

A spokeswoman told 13WHAM News, “We were sorry to hear about Mr. Wachal's loss and we've reached out to him to figure out how we might be able to help.”

Medical and funeral bills aside, Wachal is just hoping to obtain the video messages his wife left him and their daughter. 

"I want them for ten, fifteen years from now my daughter can watch them and know who her mom was,” said Charles.

Dying message trapped in Facebook

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