Border Wall Causes Serious Injuries, Tucson Doctors Say

Linda Valdez, AZ Central, May 24, 2013

There are hidden costs to those towering walls that some in Congress still think are insufficient to secure the southern border.

The costs are paid by you and by people that Dr. Lynn Gries says are “depersonalized and seen as some sort of enemy.” She’s a trauma surgeon at the University of Arizona Medical Center in Tucson.

And yes, she’s talking about people who get hurt trying to cross the border illegally.

The most seriously injured are brought to UAMC, a Level 1 trauma center.

Gries says, “It’s awful to watch.” But she also says you need to look a little closer at the unintended consequences of border policies.

“We can’t make good decisions unless we are aware of this,” she says.

UAMC takes care of about 170 border crossers a year who are too ill or severely injured to be handled at local hospitals. This includes people found near death in the desert and those who were packed into unsafe vehicles that crashed.

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“The wall is a constant source of injuries,” says Dr. John T. Ruth, head of orthopedic surgery at the UAMC.

The border fence between the twin cities of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, ranges from 18- to 30-feet high. People still try to get over it.

Gries says the peak year for injuries related to the wall was 2010, when 60 people were brought to the hospital with shattered bones, spinal injuries and bodies “crumpled like a beer can.” Since 2007, the number consistently has been in the range of 30 to 50 people a year.

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About six people a year wind up paralyzed. Once stabilized and returned to what may be a rural home in Mexico, they will be well cared for by family, says Ruth. But it’s “almost a death sentence.” {snip}

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Ruth said hospitals have both a legal and moral responsibility to care for the injured. The charges — some compensated and some not — have increased five- or six-fold since 2003, according to figures Gries has been compiling. That’s your hidden cost.

“We have to figure out a way to prevent this,” Ruth said.

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Gries says: “We have to take some ownership of what our policies are causing.”

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