ST. LOUIS – Walking down the stairs from his second-floor apartment is a task for 68-year-old Willie Gaines.
“The pain hits me so bad, each step I take (is) pain,” Gaines said. “I come down the steps I don’t know if I’m going to fall or what.”
He is a five-time stroke survivor, is on dialysis, and has high blood pressure.
“Sometimes it’s so hard I just want to give up,” he added.
But the pain and frequent stops he has to take to get out of his home has never stopped him from going somewhere. Gaines still gets on the bus, goes to the store, and goes to his dialysis appointments three times a week because he can get in his electric wheelchair as soon as he’s down the stairs.
“It gets me everywhere. Without this chair, I can’t do nothing,” Gaines said. “I go to the store in that chair, I go everywhere in that chair.”
Now, Gaines’ only mode of transportation is gone.
“I can’t get around, I can’t walk without that chair, it meant a lot to me,” he said.
Gaines and his nephew, who also is his caretaker, Julian Hampton, went to the Baden Public Library Saturday. Gaines’ electric wheelchair ran out of battery, and the library was closing.
“I asked one of the clerks there if it was possible if we could leave it inside until we could come back and charge the battery,” Hampton said.
He said he was told to leave it under the bike rack outside, which was under video surveillance.
“I figured, I guess it would be okay,” Hampton said.
They left it there Saturday night. Sunday, the library was closed so they weren’t able to charge it in order to get it home. Hampton said he went to the library Sunday morning and Sunday evening to check on it, and it was still in the same place.
But, Hampton said when he came back Monday to charge it, it was gone. He said library workers showed him surveillance video that showed someone trying to steal the electric wheelchair and put it into his truck, but it was too heavy.
Hampton said the person came back with a hammer and started beating the electric wheelchair into pieces, and then put the pieces into the truck.
Hampton and Gaines think they sold it for scrap but estimated they only got about $20 for it all. “Somebody had tipped it over, and broke it into pieces for scrap and threw it in the back of their truck, and they have all of this caught on video,” Hampton said.
He said he will still make sure to get his uncle to all of his dialysis appointments, but it’s going to be tough.
“Toss it up in the air, leave it to god because there ain’t nothing I can do about it,” Gaines said.
Hampton says now they are figuring how to get another one.
“I literally have no idea how we are going to get another one at this moment. I’m going to try to figure it out, but it’s going to be a process. I know that nothing stops. He still has to go to dialysis three times a week,” Hampton said.