January 10, 2016 5:26 pm
Updated: January 10, 2016 9:55 pm

Teen’s customized wheelchair goes missing from outside Edmonton hospital room

WATCH ABOVE: An Edmonton family is pleading with the public to help them find their daughter's customized wheelchair. Julia Wong reports.


EDMONTON – An Edmonton family is appealing for help after a custom-made wheelchair was taken from outside their daughter’s hospital room.

Brittney Zawada, 18, was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Spina bifida is a condition where a defect causes permanent damage to the spinal cord and nervous system. According to the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Northern Alberta, it can cause paralysis of the lower limbs and there is no known cause or cure.

Zawada received a customized, specially-ordered wheelchair approximately eight months ago. The seat cushion, backrest and feet straps were made to fit her body. The wheelchair is worth roughly $4,000.

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The teen was admitted to the University of Alberta Hospital on Dec. 28 after suffering from bad headaches.

Since Zawada had a shared room, the family kept her wheelchair in the hallway. But last Thursday, the family went to get it and it wasn’t there.

“I just feel sad that someone would take it,” Zawada said as tears ran down her face.

“It’s missing right now. I just want to find it.”

The teen said she depends on her wheelchair to get around and be self-sufficient.

“I need it back. All I want is for it to be returned. It’s not that I want it. I absolutely need it,” she said.

“[It’s] my only way to get around. It’s not stolen. It’s just missing or lost. I just hope someone will be able to find it.”

Zawada’s mother, Michelle St Pierre, said the hospital has provided the family with another chair in the interim, but since it is not customized to Zawada, the teen is more susceptible to pressure sores.

St Pierre said she hopes the missing wheelchair is a simple misunderstanding.

“We thought maybe a porter borrowed it, taking someone to a test or an x-ray and it may come back. It happens. We still think someone borrowed it, not realizing it’s not a hospital wheelchair. You can tell it’s custom-made with the cushion and the backing. Her name is on it,” she said.

St Pierre said hospital staff has checked all the rooms and notified security but it still has yet to turn up.

She is asking the public for help in tracking down the wheelchair.

“Please help us find her wheelchair, it’s her lifeline,” St Pierre said while holding back tears.

“This has been very stressful on our family. It’s so urgent for Brittney to have this. She feels lost.”

If the family is unable to find the wheelchair, they will have to pay out-of-pocket for a new one, which they said they cannot afford.

When reached by Global News, Alberta Health Services said it is investigating and is working closely with the family.

“We understand how specialized and important the missing wheelchair is and we will do everything we can to help find it and ensure the patient’s needs are met,” reads a statement.

© 2016 Shaw Media

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