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He came looking for work. A week in the Park County Jail changed everything.

From time to time, a registered nurse came to the door of the cellblock. She doled out Tylenol and Pepto-Bismol and told the inmates they were suffering from altitude sickness. "She never went inside to see the sick people," Carranza-Reyes says. "She always had the same cups with the same pills."

Kordick says the jail's medical director at the time, James Bachman, worked at a clinic in Summit County and only sporadically visited the jail. Carranza-Reyes says he never saw a doctor while there. The prisoners signed a petition demanding better medical care, he adds, but a guard simply crumpled it up and tossed it to the floor.

After four days, Carranza-Reyes wasn't feeling too good himself. He asked to see the nurse. By the time he did see her, two days later, he had a fever, various aches, nausea and diarrhea. The nurse told him he had altitude sickness, but Carranza-Reyes had never felt like this in Mexico City, 7,400 feet above sea level. Soon he was vomiting, and his breathing became shallow enough that a deputy tried putting him on oxygen. Nothing helped.

$672,610 later: Moises Carranza-Reyes lost his left 
foot in the Park County Jail.
Mark Manger
$672,610 later: Moises Carranza-Reyes lost his left foot in the Park County Jail.

On the morning of March 8 he complained of pain on his right side and collapsed on the floor. He soon began vomiting and coughing up blood. The nurse declared he had the flu, then revised her diagnosis to include a possible kidney stone. Around noon he was taken handcuffed in a deputy's Jeep to an emergency room in Frisco. He threw up blood in a plastic sack along the way. The doctors determined he was suffering from pneumonia, sepsis, abnormal blood chemistry, and who-knows-what-else from the virulent stew of streptococci and other contagions raging in the detainee ward. He was deteriorating rapidly and had to be rushed to Denver Health.

In Denver, Carranza-Reyes went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated. His body had erupted in black, crusty sores. The surgical team had to remove part of his right lung and his left foot, which had turned gangrenous.

When immigration officials learned that he was in the intensive-care unit in Denver, they promptly released him from their custody, absolving their agency of any further expense in the matter. They released his brother and sister-in-law, too. His brother was soon presented with a form to sign, authorizing the hospital to remove comatose Moises from the machines keeping him alive. His brother refused to sign.

Carranza-Reyes spent six months in the hospital. An attorney for Denver Health has filed a lien against his lawsuit, seeking to recover $672,610 in medical bills from any settlement he might reach with Park County. Fitted with a prosthesis on his left leg, Carranza-Reyes now lives in Northglenn with his brother and sister-in-law. He walks with the aid of a cane, but he does not work.

"I try to walk in the morning," he says. "I clean. I fix dinner. Sometimes I am in so much pain I cannot walk. I go to church when I can. My brother is the only one who has a job. He never stopped helping me."

The operation left a hole in his leg that has never healed. Fluids ooze out of it. Sometimes it bleeds. Carranza-Reyes has trouble breathing, but he thinks it is just because he is getting fat, sitting around and not working.

"I just think about why," he says. "Why they didn't bother to take care of me. I remember the nurse saying, No problem, it's just the altitude. She never took me seriously, and I was feeling worse day by day."

Carranza-Reyes wants to be taken seriously. It is hard not to work. It is humiliating. He would like to find work he can do.

He will do any work he can, he says, as long as it is honest.

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