A Claremont family attending a Long Beach sports camp geared toward those with disabilities last week is now asking for the public’s help in replacing their son’s special beach wheelchair, stolen from them while they slept in their hotel room.
Patrick Freeman, 26, had finished his first day at the Land Meets Sea sports camp last Wednesday at Marine Stadium when he began having seizures at a local restaurant where he was having dinner with his parents.
“They were small at that time so we were rushing back to the hotel to get his evening meds into him early,” said his father Mike Freeman in an email. “But on the way he went into full tonic/clonic seizure so we had to pull to the side of the road and call for an ambulance.”
Mike said he was sure he saw the trailer that stored the wheelchair parked at the Seal Beach hotel when they arrived from the hospital at about 11:00PM. However, when he went to connect the trailer to his vehicle next morning to go home, it was gone.
It was Patrick’s first time attending the three-day camp, hosted by the Pomona-based Casa Colina Hospital, which offers therapeutic outdoor experiences to children and adults with disabilities provided by professionals, coaches and athletes.
“Once a year, they do a special large program in Long Beach where the disabled, no matter how severe, can try kayaking, water skiing, jet skiing, paddle boarding and other activities using specially adapted equipment,” Mike Freeman stated.
Three years ago, the younger Freeman suffered a traumatic brain injury when a driver on his phone hit him while crossing the street in the Los Angeles area. Patrick was in coma for almost two months and is now 100 percent disabled, his father said. He is unable to walk or talk, but does enjoy going out with his parents and caregivers.
“Prior the accident, my wife and I lived in Colorado and Patrick moved to California because he loved beaches,” Mike said. “Patrick’s injuries were too severe for him to move out of state so we moved here to care for him and help him recover.”
Patrick’s parents invested in the special wheelchair to make it more accessible for them to take their son to the beach. Before, his mom and caregiver had to pull his regular wheel with all their might onto the beach and carry him down onto a towel on the sand, Mike said.
“The special chair allows us to get him not just on the beach, but actually down into the water.,” his father said. “It’s armrests are floatation devices so for the first time since his accident we could actually get him into the ocean that he loves.”
They also planned to use his special beach wheelchair to help other people with brain injuries to go into the ocean.
Most said lifeguard stations have a beach wheelchair that can be checked out for free on a first come first serve basis, but described them as worn out and so old that it does not allow for the person to go into the water.
With each special beach wheelchair costing $1,700, the family has set up a YouCaring fundraiser account in hopes to raise $20,000 to replace Patrick Freeman’s beach wheelchair and to donate 10 new ones to lifeguard stations across Southern California.
“Patrick’s life was ripped away from him in an instant by a careless driver and this was something that gave him some happiness in a life now filled with doctors, hospitals, therapies and daily caregivers,” Mike Freeman said.
To learn more about Patrick Freeman check out this Facebook blog.
Photos courtesy of Mike Freeman.