The man was unconscious and had a laceration on the back of his head when an ambulance arrived for him outside a loading dock in Shaw on the afternoon of Feb. 22.
At Howard University Hospital, where he was admitted and treated for head trauma, the staff labeled him "John Doe No. 24."
He wore brown pants, a black jacket and two sweaters, but had no identification.
Now, more than five months later, John Doe No. 24 remains in the hospital. He has not fully regained consciousness. He has not been identified.
Howard University Hospital has admitted more than 90 John Does and more than 18 Jane Does this year. That's not unusual for a city hospital that provides emergency care for any person brought in. D.C. General Hospital, for example, has admitted about 200 unidentified patients during the same period.
Such patients usually are identified quickly by family or friends.
John Doe No. 24 is a rarity, and the hospital has mounted a campaign to identify him. A sketch of his face has been made public. Hospital security officers have visited several shelters for the homeless and interviewed people on the streets in the area where the man was found. The police are going to do a a fingerprint check.
One reason for the search is the mounting medical bill, which now comes to more than $413,500, according to hospital Social Services Director Anne Street.
"We have been trying to get him on Medicaid, but we can't because he has not been identified," Street said. She said the man probably would qualify for Medicaid or a medical charity program because of the amount of the bill.
Without an identification for the patient, the hospital "can't get anything . . . . The hospital is absorbing the cost," Street said. Patients who need long-term care but are not in a position to pay have added to the financial problems at the hospital, which laid off 281 workers in June to save money.
Nevertheless, Howard University Hospital doctors have tried to provide the man with the medical care they believe he needs. Within hours after his admission, he had surgery to remove the pressure on his brain from bleeding. Afterward, he was kept in intensive care and on life-sustaining systems.
At present, the man is breathing on his own. But he still relies on tube feedings and medical care, including treatment for a lung infection that recently developed.
John Doe No. 24 weighs 160 pounds, has black hair and brown eyes and a dark complexion. "We estimate that he is in his late twenties," said Raquel Palmer, supervisor of social workers in the hospital unit where the man has a bed.
"He is attractive," Palmer said. "He has a headful of curly hair. He is obviously a well-built guy. He didn't show signs of undernourishment when he was admitted or signs that he had been knocking around for a long time.
"But nobody has come to claim him."
The nurses who take care of John Doe No. 24 "like him and feel sorry for him because he is such a young guy to find himself in this position," Palmer said.
She said the man began to open his eyes and respond to physical stimulation about three weeks ago. "He can hear because if you put out a finger and tell him to follow it with his eyes, he can do that. But he is not talking."
Doctors said that the patient shows signs of having some movement on his right side. His left side is paralyzed, but the man's prospects for regaining movement on that side are fair, doctors said.
"We try to cheer him up," Palmer said. "But he doesn't respond."