Bucks county man gets new wheelchair

April 3, 2009 3:42:54 PM PDT
Five days after his independence was stolen, it was a happy ending for John Feeley.

The 20-year-old man from Upper Southampton, Pa. was eagerly awaiting the van from Associated Medical Specialties when it arrived today.

Five days ago, Feeley's customized $20,000 electric wheelchair was taken from the driveway in front of his home. Today, Associated delivered a new one free of charge. John couldn't wait to try it out.

"I like it a lot," he said as he took the controls. "It fits perfectly, it's exactly the same as the other one. I can't believe it."

Feeley has been paralyzed since he was six days old, and his electric wheelchair was his independence.

John and his father got hundreds of calls offering help after we first aired the story of the wheelchair theft on Action News on Tuesday. And then Associated stepped in.

"One of our employees heard about this on the news the other day and came to us and said, 'you know, this would be a great thing to do,'" said co-owner Mitchell Balaban. "And my partner and I sat down and we talked about it and we said, 'Sure, why not?'"

John's father choked back tears when the new chair arrived. "It's unbelievable, unbelievable," he said. "You can see it in his face, how happy he is."

Without the wheelchair, John wasn't able to use his specially customized van. The chair had special brackets on the bottom that slid into a locking mechanism.

John said the design allows him to "go wherever I want without people helping me. I can do a lot of stuff on my own."

The police now know where the old chair ended up. A trash picker has admitted he sold a load of metal, including the chair, to a scrap yard for $66. He claims he was making his rounds on trash day when he saw the chair. Police haven't decided yet if he'll be charged.

The old chair may be scrap now, but one thing is clear: the new one is priceless.

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