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Every once in a while, I hear stories of people trying to survive in San Diego, and I just can’t keep them to myself. This afternoon, I heard one of those.

Sana Hanna lives in El Cajon in an apartment with her 18-year-old son. She was born in Iraq and moved to the United States about 20 years ago.

A few years ago, when she was living in Detroit, she was shot by a gang member after he’d tried to force her to drive him somewhere. Since then, Hanna’s been paralyzed, unable to walk.

The Detroit whether was deemed an impediment to her treatment, so she and her son moved to San Diego a couple of years ago. She just started classes at Cuyamaca College to learn to read and write English, a language she picked up conversationally when she worked in a grocery store in Detroit.

A few nights ago, Hanna and some friends and her care workers took her to Ali Baba restaurant in El Cajon to celebrate her birthday. They came back to her apartment for birthday cake, and her guests left about 9:30 p.m. Hanna and her son went to sleep.

In the morning, she realized her power chair, the motorized scooter she uses to get from place to place, from home to school to the grocery store to church, had been stolen.

She called her friend Brooks Ashby, one of the seven people who’d been out for dinner the night before.

“I was crying a lot, because it’s like my legs,” Hanna said.

Ashby is a care worker who functions as Hanna’s advocate when she needs help negotiating with a landlord and various other tasks. He said the chair was too big to fit in her apartment, so Hanna usually has her son wheel it under the stairs outside her apartment door to store overnight, running an extension cord under the front door to charge it overnight. That arrangement had never been a problem for the year she’s lived in the El Cajon apartment, he said.

“What we really think happened is they came in at 2, 3 in the morning and just lifted the chair,” he said.

The chairs run more than $2,000, a replacement cost too astronomical for Hanna, who receives $870 a month in a disability allowance.

“She’s just scraping by,” Ashby said.

Hanna said she doesn’t know what she’ll do now. She said the theft leaves her housebound, unable to get to class. She worries she’ll be dropped from her classes because she’s missed the second week.

I’ll keep you posted on Hanna’s situation.

KELLY BENNETT

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