William Kamau, 10, is disabled and now he doesn’t have a wheelchair. It was stolen from outside his home on Tuesday.
Margaret Kamau said she and her son were going for a routine trip out of the house, going through the same process she goes through nearly every day. William’s custom-made wheelchair, which was purchased new in November by the family’s insurance company, was sitting beside the family’s car at around 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday. Sometime in the next half hour, while Margaret Kamau went back inside her Westland Street house to get William, the chair disappeared.
“We’re still feeling down. I can’t believe it’s gone. I’m still trying to deal with it,” Margaret Kamau said.
William has a metabolic disorder that effects him both mentally and physically. Kamau said he eats through a feeding tube and, due to muscle weakness, is unable to get around without the chair. His old wheel chair is still in the house, but it is now too small for him.
Margaret Kamau fears her health insurance company will not help replace the $7,000 chair. Though Kamau said her son is not capable of understanding the theft, she feels discouraged that the pair are housebound for the time being. William also depends on a suction machine to keep his airways clear. It was in the driveway alongside his chair, and was also stolen, Kamau said. The machine was a loaner, and she is looking into obtaining a replacement.
“I never felt like someone would take a kid’s wheelchair,” she said.
Police told Kamau they searched they neighborhood. She said they advised her to call scrap metal yards in the area and describe the chair, which is black and green and has the name “Kamau” embroidered on the seat. The chair was not motorized because William needs to be pushed.
Methuen police Lt. Gregory Gallant said whoever took the chair was likely to scrap it, though he has also seen cases where equipment is taken off the curb innocently, having been mistaken for trash. Kamau said that the “brand new” chair was clearly waiting to be loaded into her vehicle, and would not have been mistaken for garbage.
“(The police) might keep an eye at the pawn shops, but there are no suspects and no evidence,” Gallant said.
Gallant warned against leaving valuable items outdoors unattended, even for a short period of time in a neighborhood like Kamau’s, which he deemed very safe. He said lawn mowers are also frequently stolen from people’s yards under similar circumstances.
“They will steal wheelchairs just as often as they’d steal anything else, anything that’s not locked down,” he said
Margaret Kamau said she is holding out hope that someone will return the chair before it is pawned or broken down.
“That’s the only thing he has for his movement,” she said. “If someone has it somewhere, please bring it back.”