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Latter-day Saint missionary with genetic disorder receives new wheelchair

SALT LAKE CITY — Nineteen-year-old Rhett Carbine has a rare genetic disorder that makes it hard for him to breathe. A personalized wheelchair carries his oxygen tanks, which give him some freedom.

But that freedom was stolen two weeks ago when a thief swiped Carbine's personalized wheelchair out of his mother's SUV, which was parked in front of their home in the Avenues in the middle of the night.

"It was like, 'What goes through your head when you're actually doing this and seeing there is a need and you're taking from that?'" Andrea Carbine, Rhett's mother, asked.

Now, members of the community have reached out in hopes of restoring Rhett Carbine's independence.

Carbine has short rib polydactyly syndrome type 2, or Majewski syndrome, which is a lethal, skeletal dysplasia. It's a genetic disorder that stopped the growth of his ribs and lungs at age 10. Doctors told his mother he likely wouldn't survive infancy.

"The wheelchair gave him freedom," Andrea Carbine said.

That's critical for a young man eager for independence. For the last 14 months, Rhett Carbine has been serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He serves two days a week at home, where he can breathe from the oxygen concentrator. On the other three weekdays, he needs the wheelchair to carry the oxygen tanks so that he can serve in downtown Salt Lake City.

Since the theft, Carbine made do with a wheelchair on loan from Shriners Hospital for Children - Salt Lake City until the family could raise enough money to buy another one.

In the meantime, friends set up a GoFundMe account to replace the wheelchair. The account surpassed its fundraising goal and raised $9,800 by Friday.

"It's been a huge blessing," his mother said.

But before the family could buy a wheelchair, Alpine Home Medical Equipment stepped in to provide Carbine with a brand new one.

Rhett Carbine received the good news Thursday night.

"Oh my gosh. Getting a new chair today was amazing," he said.

He described his feelings as "gratitude. I felt that a lot yesterday."

The chair is worth between $2,000 and $3,000, but Carbine's mother said you can't quite put a price tag on freedom and independence.

Through their ordeal, she said her family has learned "there are people out there willing to help."

Now, Rhett Carbine is getting used to his new wheels.

"I might see the max speed of this later, see if it goes faster than the old one," he said happily.