Hit-and-run victim told to wait months for new wheelchair

 21-year-old Erik Cuellar of Smithville was driving his wheelchair to work when a driver struck him and fled the scene. Cuellar survived, but said his wheelchair was destroyed.

"Somebody's watching over me," said Cuellar who was born with Cerebral Palsy, a neurological disorder that affects movement and muscle coordination.  

Cuellar said he has never let his disability keep him from living a normal life.

"I guess I'm one of the lucky ones because I can walk on my own. I just can't walk far distances, which is why I was in the wheelchair," said Cuellar.  

Cuellar traveled a mile and half in his manual wheelchair to his job at Brookshire Brothers grocery store every day up until Valentine's Day.

"I was on the way to work between 5:30 and 6 and got hit by a car," said Cuellar.

Authorities found Cuellar unconscious, lying on the ground next to his damaged wheelchair. The driver who hit him was nowhere to be found.

"I don't tend to hold grudges toward anyone. I just don't understand how someone can leave you lying there not knowing if you were dead or alive," said Cuellar.
    
Cuellar suffered some minor injuries and was released from the hospital the following day. Then Cuellar's insurance company dealt him another blow.

"They said that I have to go get an evaluation done, which could take 3-5 months in order to get me the wheelchair. When I asked about an electric scooter, they said that I'd have to find somebody to fund the other half because my insurance doesn't cover it," said Cuellar.

Cuellar said his Medicare insurance doesn't cover a loaner wheelchair while he waits for a permanent one.
    
"I can't wait that long. I needed a wheelchair as of yesterday," said Cuellar. "Getting my life back to normal without the chair is going to be impossible."

When Cuellar's coworkers heard about his situation, they decided to take matters into their own hands.

"My first thought was, 'Is he okay?' And then once I found out he was okay just, 'What can we do to help him?'" said Jason Smith, assistant store director of Brookshire Brothers in Smithville.

Smith and the rest of the staff started collecting donations to help Cuellar buy an electric scooter.

"We have jars set up at the register where patrons can make donations to help Erik," said Smith.  

Brookshire Brothers is also holding a bake sale for Cuellar outside the Smithville store on March 21.

Cuellar said on Friday Smithville police told him they have found the man responsible for the hit-and-run. Cuellar said he will be pressing charges.


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