A Winnipeg man says the only way he can get around the city is to hobble on crutches in severe pain after his specialized wheelchair was stolen out of the back of his car Friday.
"Stuff like this isn't supposed to happen." Lawrie Anderson said. "You know, you don't steal from crippled people."
Anderson has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since he was a child and his specialized wheelchair allowed him to get some exercise as well as give him freedom of transportation.
"The way the levers on the arms work, the levers power the wheels instead of the rim. I have deformities in my wrists and elbows and hands and so grabbing the rim rail, I can't do it. So I push on the levers."
Anderson came across the Willgo Wheelchair about five years ago after he had a hip replacement. A made-in-Manitoba product, the chairs are built in Brandon and aren't cheap. His initial chair he was able to purchase because it was used and he had insurance coverage. He used it at work.
He is currently unable to work and there's no way he can afford the more than $8,000 price tag to replace it, he said.
"I've got a mobility tricycle … I have a small apartment, so I put the wheelchair … in the back of the car just to store it until I use it again. It's quite large, and it won't fit through the side door of the car so I put it in through the back hatch."
The hatch can't be opened unless someone has a key, said Anderson, so the wheelchair would have had to have been dismantled before being removed from the vehicle.
"So they really, really wanted it. It's second level, underground parkade and my spot happens to be in the back corner so it's very easy for them to not be noticed."
Police have been by to fingerprint the vehicle and Anderson said he's hoping his building's security cameras will show him more when the management offices open on Monday.
While he does have other transportation, like his vehicle and a tricycle, those don't allow him to do things like go into stores to go shopping for groceries.
"I was in disbelief … I kept looking around corners wondering where the wheelchair is and finally I just came to realize that it's gone."
Moving to a powered wheelchair is an option, but his doctors told him he needs to keep moving as much as possible, and this was a relatively pain-free way to do so, he said.
It really makes me sad that it happened. Stuff like this isn't supposed to happen. You know, you don't steal from crippled people. - Lawrie Anderson
A friend has started a GoFundMe to help raise $8,600 to replace the chair and cover the cost of taxes and shipping. Anderson said he's grateful for the help.
This isn't the first time a specialized vehicle for a disabled person has been stolen in Winnipeg. In early August a disabled man in Amber Trails discovered his specialized trike had been taken from his attached garage. And in May, a disabled St. James woman had her trike stolen from her backyard.