Jorge Ortega-Paredes, a resident of Hyattsville, Md., apparently was attacked and robbed shortly after he left the apartment he and his husband share about 10:15 p.m. on May 28 to walk to the home of friends about two miles away in Tacoma Park, according to his husband, Luis Melgar.
“I’m very thankful,” said Melgar, who earlier in the week had feared his husband may not be alive.
Melgar said Ortega-Paredes is being treated for head and facial injuries caused by the assault that doctors say resulted in internal bleeding near his brain.
“He doesn’t remember his name. He doesn’t remember my name,” said Melgar. “But he can recognize faces.”
Hospital spokesperson So Young Pak said Ortega-Paredes is listed in fair condition. She said that under privacy rules the hospital cannot release any further information to the media.
According to Melgar, members of the hospital staff told him Ortega-Paredes arrived at the hospital by ambulance about 11:20 p.m. on the night he went missing. The ambulance had responded to a 911 emergency call from a citizen who saw Ortega-Paredes walking along East-West Highway in Hyattsville while bleeding and appearing disoriented, Melgar said he was told.
He arrived at the hospital emergency room with a backpack in his possession but no form of identification, Melgar said.
It wasn’t until Thursday, more than a week after he arrived at the hospital, that someone discovered papers in the backpack that included a list of phone numbers. A hospital staffer began calling the numbers and reached a friend of the couple who immediately called Melgar.
Melgar rushed to the hospital and formally identified his husband, ending what he said was a week of anguish over not knowing whether he would ever again see Ortega-Paredes alive.
In conversations with his husband at the hospital on Thursday, Melgar said Ortega-Paredes was able to communicate that two men attacked him and took his phone and wallet. It appears that one of them struck Ortega-Paredes in the head either with a fist or an object.
Although he’s optimistic that prospects look good for his husband’s full recovery, he told the Washington Blade he’s troubled that bureaucratic roadblocks and a possible display of indifference by at least one Hyattsville police staffer prevented Ortega-Paredes from being identified sooner.
“We called that hospital like three or four times on [on May 30] and asked if they had anybody without an I.D.,” Melgar said. “And they didn’t give us any information.”
When he asked about this on Thursday while visiting Ortega-Paredes at Washington Hospital Center, he was told by a staffer that the hospital’s policy prohibits the hospital from releasing information about patients admitted there, even if the callers are searching for a missing relative.
Melgar said he next learned from another hospital staffer that the hospital itself faced a roadblock when Ortega-Paredes struggled to tell nurses where he lived and mumbled something about Hyattsville. This prompted a nurse to call Hyattsville police to ask if they had a report of a missing person.
The nurse, according to Melgar, told a female officer or civilian staffer who answered the phone that the hospital had a physical description of an unidentified patient and would like to know if it matched that of a reported missing person.
“And the person who answered the phone said she couldn’t give out that information,” Melgar said the hospital staffer told him. “She just told the nurse to wait for Jorge to remember something.”
Melgar said he filed a missing persons report for Ortega-Paredes on May 30. Hyattsville police then released an alert to the news media with a photo of Ortega-Paredes appealing to the public for help in finding him.
Lt. Chris Purvis, a Hyattsville police spokesperson, told the Blade on Thursday that the case remains under investigation.