Bryan Nielsen of Kenmore hasn't been able to drive since he was critically injured when he was struck by a car in 2004, and his custom three-wheeler allowed him to get around – until Thursday.
That's when someone cut the lock off it outside Aldi's on Elmwood Avenue and stole the tricked-out trike, leaving Nielsen, 42, without wheels and his independence.
"It means everything. That’s the only thing that makes life fairly tolerable," he said.
He said he had gone to pick up a few things at the store and came out to find his trike gone.
"People at the store were great. They came out and helped me," he said.
A check of the security tape showed someone came up on a bike, which was left at the scene after the thief cut the lock and rode away in the three-wheeler, he said.
This is the third three-wheeler Nielsen has customized to help him get around; the first two were totaled when they were hit by cars. The parts alone, including a motor and an extra battery, cost at least $1,500, he said.
He spent most of last summer customizing the trike, getting some help from his uncle for the large purchases.
"What took me months to do, some (expletive) is going to destroy in a matter of minutes," Nielsen said. "That was my only outreach to get outside."
"That’s why this one in particular is such a loss," said Nielsen's mother, Joyce Kryszak, a former Buffalo-area resident who now lives out of town.
"He spent all last summer putting streams of lights, brake lights and turning signals, so it would be really safe," Kryszak said. "This is just devastating."
Nielsen's life changed in 2004 when he was struck by a car. He went through the windshield and was wrapped around the steering column. His brother held his mouth open until emergency crews got there.
"One of the paramedics said 'I don't think we'll make it to the hospital,' " said Kryszak, a former Buffalo News correspondent who also worked for WBFO.
Nielsen spent weeks in a coma, finally emerging and spending several years in therapy from the traumatic brain injury. He has balance issues when standing and walking, his arms were shattered, his hands don't have the dexterity they once had, and he uses crutches to walk.
"He's had a long haul," his mother said. "This bike was his one way of having independence."
Nielsen said he appreciates all the offers of help he has received in the last day. He said anyone with information about the tricycle should contact Buffalo Police D District at 851-4413.