Case Closed: Arizona Mystery Immigrant Identified

Three weeks ago, NPR reported on a severely brain-injured patient who had been in a Tucson, Ariz., hospital since April. No one — including the patient — knew who he was. But the mystery has finally been solved.

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"Adobe," a patient recovering from severe brain trauma at the University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz, has now been identified as Santos Vazquez Escalante of Chiquimula, Guatemala. Courtesy of University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz. hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz.
Adobe

"Adobe," a patient recovering from severe brain trauma at the University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz, has now been identified as Santos Vazquez Escalante of Chiquimula, Guatemala.

Courtesy of University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz.

After more than four months, officials at University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz., have identified a man previously known only as "Adobe": He is Santos Vazquez Escalante of Chiquimula, Guatemala.

Vazquez Escalante developed a severe brain injury when a truck he was riding in flipped on a road in southeastern Arizona. The vehicle was overloaded with more than 40 suspected illegal immigrants packed together like sardines. Four men died, 20 escaped and 18 were flown to hospitals.

Vazquez Escalante was released from the hospital Thursday and sent home the next day by the Guatemalan consul to be reunited with his wife and five children.

A Man Known As Adobe

Since April, the short, stocky, quiet man had been recovering in the hospital with no recollection of who he was or where he came from. He'd been known to staff only as "Adobe" — the nickname given to him by the trauma team at the hospital after he arrived with no identification.

Whenever Barbara Felix, the hospital's coordinator for international patient services, asked him his name over the past four months, he would answer "Cindi" — and that was his response to every other question hospital staff asked.

So they just kept calling him Adobe.

A Match!

In her effort to figure out the man's identity, Felix sent pictures of the man to news media in the U.S., Mexico and farther south, including Guatemala.

But the hospital didn't get a response from anyone knowing the man's identity, Felix says.

Felix says the hospital also contacted U.S. Border Patrol to ask if the man could be fingerprinted.

And they got a match: The 34-year-old man had been previously picked up by the agency.

The Guatemalan consul in Phoenix tracked down the patient's wife and five children in the small town of Chiquimula.

The consul went to the patient's bedside with photographs of Vazquez Escalante and his family.

Felix says Vazquez Escalante recognized the photos and got excited — as did the staff caring for him.

"Everyone here — the nurses, the techs, everyone," Felix says.

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