Wheelchair stolen from paralyzed DeRidder woman

Wheelchair stolen from paralyzed DeRidder woman

DERIDDER, LA (KPLC) - When life throws you hurdles, it can be tough to pick yourself back up.

Not for one DeRidder woman who continues to persevere through the toughest challenges, including an accident leaving her paralyzed.

Now, the wheelchair she has to depend on has been stolen.

Forty-seven-year-old Dawn Gonzales was critically injured during an ATV accident in 2013.

"She had a T-12 stress fracture and it's not ever going to get any better," said her sister, Wendi Gonzales Seidl.

Although she is now paralyzed from the chest down, Seidl says she never gave up.

"She doesn't want to be someone that really has to rely on the government to take care of her," said Seidl. "She wants to go back to work. She loves being a florist. She wants to take care of her kids."

Modifying her van and teaching herself how to drive with her hands, she took off from DeRidder in November on a road trip to California to visit her mother, who was undergoing surgery.

While there, she heard her friend in Las Vegas needed help - his mother was dying and needed someone to care for her.

"She had to stop in California, in Barstow, to get gas, get something to eat, use the restroom," said Seidl. "Then, she forgot to put her wheelchair in her car and she drove off. By the time she realized it was not in there, she turned around to come back and someone had stolen her wheelchair."

A custom wheelchair fitted specially for Gonzales.

She can't travel without it, but has made it to Las Vegas.

However, Gonzales is having a tough time getting home.

"I laugh-cried," said Gonzales. "I've never done that in my life and if anybody knows how that feels, it was like I was saying, 'It's not funny, ha ha ha. It's not funny, ha ha ha.' But, I couldn't stop because I couldn't believe that had happened, that I would allow that to happen and that somebody would just walk away with it."

A police report has been filed, but Gonzales hasn't had any luck locating the chair and it will take a long time for insurance to process her claim.

"It's been a rough road for her ever since this accident," said Seidl. "She's been trying to get back on her feet, trying to find where she wants to live and what she wants to do with her life. Now, this happened. So, it's a complete setback, again, for her. It's hard to watch your little sister go through that."

It's going to take around $4,000 to get a new chair.

"It's a custom, so they knew that someone really needed it and I guess they thought they needed it more," said Gonzales.

In the face of this adversity, her spirits are high. She's determined to keep moving forward.

There are no leads on the whereabouts of the wheelchair, so Seidl has set up a GoFundMe page. Click HERE to donate.

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