June 6, 2014 at 1:17 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Missing gay man found in D.C. hospital

Jorge Ortega-Paredes, gay news, Washington Blade

Jorge Ortega-Paredes was last seen on May 28. (Photo courtesy of Luis Melgar)

A 38-year-old gay man who has been missing since May 28 was identified by a friend on Thursday morning as a patient at Washington Hospital Center eight days after he was admitted to the emergency room as an unidentified assault victim suffering memory loss.

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.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • This is awful, all the way around. One can’t help buto wonder if a man had called about a missing wife, or a woman her missing husband, whether there would have been the same run-around. Get well soon, Jorge—and catch/prosecute the perp!

  • So glad Jorge has been found! And thank goodness for the citizen who called 911. But the rest is just awful. Am thinking now of getting a tattoo with my name and other vitals in case of an emergency, but not sure that would even make a difference.

  • "Missing Gay Man"? Would he be any less missing if he was straight?

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