Citizen Staff Writer
For three months, an unidentified man has lived at University Medical Center.
He is walking, eating and trying to communicate, but because of a head injury he is unable to tell the doctors his name. They call him Adobe, the name given to him when he was admitted to the hospital, and hospital staff members are desperate to figure out who he is and find his family.
UMC pays for his care, although federal funds may eventually help cover some of his trauma services.
Barbara Felix, coordinator for international patient services at UMC, said his medical bills are not an issue.
“We feel that it’s very sad that he’s not had anyone from the family come forward because this could help him in his recovery,” Felix said.
Adobe was one of an estimated 50 to 60 illegal immigrants in a pickup truck that rolled near Arizona City on April 27. The Pinal County Sheriff’s Department estimated that 20 to 30 people ran away after the crash. Four men died, 18 people were flown to hospitals in Tucson and Phoenix and another nine were taken by ambulance to area hospitals, the sheriff’s agency reported.
Felix said the man entered UMC with life-threatening injuries and is slowly recovering.
The hospital is not legally required to keep Adobe, but he is not able to leave on his own or care for himself, she said.
Without a caregiver or insurance to pay for him to receive care in a rehabilitation facility, the hospital continues to care for him, said Katie Riley, a UMC spokeswoman
“He could have left our facility in a matter of days of coming here, because we had done what could be done,” she said. “He could have been in a rehab facility.”
Felix, who has been the international patient coordinator at UMC for 21 years, said this is a “very unusual situation.”
“Whenever we’ve had people come to us after automobile accidents, the most common thing is someone shows up looking for them,” she said. “Frequently people will have some kind of identification.”
Adobe arrived at the hospital with a bag and a Mexican voter registration card.
After weeks of searching, representatives of the Mexican Consulate found the family of the person named on the card and learned he was not that person.
“We assumed it was his, which was an error,” Felix said. “When (the consulate) finally got ahold of someone who they thought was related, they said, ‘This is not our relative. None of them have been in an accident. Leave us alone.’”
Those involved in the crash came from Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala, so the hospital has expanded its search to include El Salvador and Guatemala consulates.
Felix said knowing what language he understands could help him recover. Hospital officials don’t know if he speaks Spanish or a native dialect.
“He is trying to speak to us,” she said. “He is unable to write. We don’t know if that is part of the injury or if he was never able to write.”
Riley said his initial care will most likely be paid by federal Section 1011 funds, which help hospitals cover trauma services for illegal immigrants. Even so, the federal government stops paying for any care provided after the patient is stabilized. Riley would not disclose the cost of his care.
UMC receives $1 million to $2 million a year in Section 1011 money to help cover the estimated $5 million to $6 million it spends on illegal immigrants. Riley said the unpaid amount cuts into the hospital’s bottom line and can affect hirings and the purchase of new technology.
But Felix said the man’s care matters more than money.
“He’s a man without a country at this point,” she said. “He is ours. We receive anybody and everybody who comes here.”
Anyone who can help identify the man is asked to contact UMC social services at 694-6671 or UMC international patient services at 694-4412.