Deputies are working to identify the burglars responsible for stealing a breathing machine from a 14-year-old girl with cystic fibrosis following the return of the device Monday, the Victorville Police Department said.
Police responded to a call in the 16700 block of Forrest Avenue about a vehicle that threw out two small suitcases that contained the breathing machine stolen from the Apple Valley girl during a burglary of her father's home on Friday.
Deputies confirmed Monday that the suitcases contained the device and contacted family to return it to them.
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Mary Gonsalves, the girl's mother, said laptops and other electronics were stolen from the home, but the most valuable item taken was her daughter Allissa's Respritech InCourage Airway Clearance Vest. Allissa has cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening disease that causes mucus buildup in the body and lungs, and it was this machine that allowed her to breathe, Gonsalves said.
"This machine added quantity and quality to her life. Losing it is an immeasurable loss and will likely lead to multiple hospitalizations and loss of lung function. Cystic fibrosis takes so much and these thieves took so much more than they could've ever understood," Gonsalves said.
Gonsales said in a Facebook post that the vest has been returned to them, and the family will be certifying the machine with Respritech to ensure that it is clean and safe for their daughter to use. However, the damage has been done.
"We ask that you continue your prayers as Allissa's health has declined. We are currently driving to Palo Alto to see her team of specialists at Stanford's LPCH. We pray that the time without her treatments hasn't affected her lungs too severely," Gonsalves said.
In a Sunday Facebook post, Gonsalves said she received a "strange" message from a woman who said her neighbor had given her the breathing machine. The women said she saw Gonsalves' post on social media, and as an empathizing single mother, she wanted to return the vest back to Gonsalves' daughter.
Gonsalves said the women asked her to come meet her at her home to pick up the breathing machine. The woman asked that police not be involved. Worried about the circumstances of the request, Gonsalves asked a deputy to escort her. The woman didn't show. Gonsalves and deputies searched the surrounding area in case the women had dropped off the vest, but found nothing.
Gonsalves said she does not know if this woman is involved in the burglary.
The family estimated that a replacement breathing machine could cost upwards $12,000. Gonsales had organized a GoFundMe to raise funds for a replacement breathing machine, but now that the vest has been returned, she said she will issue refunds to the donors.
Police said they are looking for a female suspect, but haven't disclosed anymore details.
The Victorville Police Department said anyone with more information can call (760) 241-2911 or reach the Sheriff's Dispatch at (760) 956-5001.