An Edinburgh man who had his feet amputated as a toddler doesn’t like to think of himself as disabled.
But after a thief recently cut a chain and stole his scooter — his only way to get to his job — living independently became much more challenging.
For most of the past year, Lee Wood drove 15 miles on his gas-powered scooter from Columbus to his job at Ditech Inc. in Edinburgh, where he works as a machine operator. About a month ago, he moved to an apartment in Edinburgh so that he could cut down on his commute, which now was only about a mile.
Being able to support himself in spite of the challenges he has faced in his life has always been something Wood says he has worked for. As a child, he suffered from sacral agensis and was born with clubfoot. He went through more than a dozen surgeries, but his feet ended up having to be amputated as blood was not circulating through them, Wood said.
“I’m a double amputee, but I can still do anything anyone can do with feet, it just hurts,” he said.
Despite having lost his feet, Wood can stand and walk for limited periods of time with prosthetics, though doing so can be painful. He began working at Ditech about a year ago. Having worked fast food jobs for many years, he was excited to have an opportunity to be employed at a factory, which offers higher pay than the jobs he had been working before.
“They took a chance on me and gave me a job, and I appreciate it by going to work and working hard,” he said. “This has changed my life in a better way.”
The scooter was stolen earlier this month, just several days after Wood had spent about $300 to get it repaired. Because he has a second-story apartment, he wasn’t able to store the scooter inside, and instead had left it chained to a tree underneath a tarp. But when he went out to get it on the afternoon of Nov. 4, he found that the scooter was missing. Wood filed a police report on the theft.
“I’m more mad about the situation it has put me than angry toward the person who stole it,” Wood said. “The person who stole it doesn’t likely know about me. The part that upsets me the most is someone took it and doesn’t even know what it means to me or doesn’t care.”
He hopes that the person who stole the scooter will return it, but mostly he wants closure as to what happened.
Wood lost his license nearly two decades ago, after a string of violations. Wood said he had been going through a rough time then, having to deal with the death of his mother. Since then, he’s used a variety of means to get around, often relying on friends and family for rides, but purchasing the scooter last year, which his new job at Ditech helped him afford, has made a huge difference in his ability to live independently, Wood said. He got the scooter for about $300 from a friend, but getting a replacement could cost more than $1,000, he said.
Since then, he has been using a bicycle to get around, which has made tasks such as buying groceries or taking clothing to a laundromat much harder to do, he said.
While Wood receives Social Security disability benefits, that money is barely enough to cover his rent, and he still needs to work part-time to make ends meet. He’s saving up to purchase another scooter, and is looking for an apartment that will give him the option to store it inside.
“I’m not going to go through this heartbreak again,” he said.