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Thief steals tricycle and robs Largo amputee of independence

LARGO — After Lloyd Brooks lost his leg in a 1990 motorcycle accident, the 58-year-old thought he might be homebound forever.

But a few years ago, after saving for months, the amputee rolled home on a shiny new set of wheels: a $600 custom tricycle.

Placing his foot on the right pedal and a crutch on the left, Brooks rode the bike everywhere — to the grocery store, doctor's appointments, to visit friends.

Not anymore.

One sizzling night, Brooks was outside repairing the loose basket on the tricycle. He stepped inside his home to cool off. Exhausted, he fell asleep. When he awoke the next morning, the trike was gone.

"Ever since the trike came up missing, I'm in a dilemma. I can't go nowhere," Brooks said Thursday, staring out the window at the spot where he last saw the trike in the Whispering Pines mobile home park. "If I get it back, that means I can live on my own again."

Brooks says he lost his left leg in a Mother's Day motorcycle crash 22 years ago in Pasco County. The former boat builder and construction worker says he was tearing around a curve when he skidded out of control and hit a car, ripping off his leg above the knee.

Mark Logue, owner of Clearwater Limb & Brace, fit him with a prosthesis.

But Brooks says he was essentially confined to his home until about six years ago, when he bought the trike. Now on disability, Brooks scraped together $20 here and $10 there to buy the blue Trailmate Joyrider tricycle.

Designed specifically for the handicapped and elderly, the low-riding trike has a special frame that allows the rider to step into the contraption from the side and sit down. In addition to pedaling, the rider can use his or her arms to propel the large back tires like a wheelchair.

Brooks even affixed a trailer hitch to the back so he could haul groceries home.

Now it's gone, and Brooks is hoping someone knows something. He said the trike "stands out like a sore thumb. … You can't buy nothing like that at Walmart."

"People see me and honk their horns because they can't believe I'm (pedaling) it," he said. "So whoever's got it, they know and they know me."

Brooks' old prosthesis no longer fits and Logue had planned to present him with a new one at the end of next week. They had hoped the new limb, with a special design consisting of rotators and shocks to allow Brooks to pedal with both legs, would enable him to go job hunting.

"We're in the process of making him a brand new prosthesis specifically designed for the bicycle," Logue said. "But unfortunately, I don't know how we'll adjust it without his bicycle."

Since the trike was stolen, Brooks' son has moved in to help, but the young man has a suspended driver's license. Taxicabs, Brooks said, cost too much and buses are unreliable.

Logue was aghast when his patient arrived for his weekly appointment last week exhausted and sweaty after having walked more than 2 miles in the hot sun on crutches. The doctor paid for Brooks' cab ride home.

"Your armpits get sore. It makes my hands numb. If I get tired, there is nowhere to sit," Brooks said. "And the only thing that keeps me going is I have no choice."

Brooks said neighbors have told him they believe they've spotted a man riding the trike around town.

Logue hopes someone will recognize the trike and return it to Brooks.

"It would give him back his independence," he said.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at ksummers@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Thief steals tricycle and robs Largo amputee of independence 08/17/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 17, 2012 7:56pm]

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