The specialized prosthetic leg that Ranjit Steiner, a 2009 Gunn High School graduate, was counting on to carry him to a Paralympic medal was stolen from his car in San Francisco overnight.
Steiner, a multiple Athlete of the Year while a student at Gunn, lost his leg above the knee after contracting bone cancer. He had his leg amputated four years ago after he had multiple staphylococcus infections that hampered his mobility, he said.
But it didn't stop him from running. Steiner got a $30,000 sprinter's prosthesis that has helped him win the bronze medal in the nationals, he said.
On Tuesday morning, March 3, Steiner woke up, jumped into his car and was halfway to work when he felt "the helicopter effect" of wind rushing through his hair, he said. He looked back, and the passenger-side window of his car was smashed.
"Anything of value was gone," he said. The thief or thieves stole his laptop and a carry bag.
"I thought, 'I hope my leg's here,' and I started looking under the seats," he said. And today is his birthday, he added.
Steiner had been out Monday night, March 2, celebrating his birthday with his family. He doesn't usually leave anything of value in his car, he said, but in the rush of getting things together, he forgot the valuables were still in his car, which was parked on Cesar Chavez Street in San Francisco's Mission District.
The custom-made limb isn't really useful to anyone else, he said. It is specially fitted to his leg. But it is designed with top-of-the-line knee and foot units that provide the necessary power and torque for Steiner to run 100- and 200-meter races and to perform the long jump, he said. Without the leg, he cannot practice for the Paralympics, he said.
"If you can imagine, this is like an injury. Without that leg, I can't do high-level training. ... If someone stole my walking leg, I'd say, 'Whatever,'" he said.
Steiner spent his birthday afternoon in the prosthetist's office. Getting a replacement will take a week to a month, he said. Luckily, his prosthetist is sponsoring him. "But he shouldn't have to pay for a new one," Steiner added.
He is hopeful that someone will find and return the limb, he said. He has heard of people finding prosthetic limbs after they were stolen, usually after the thief opens the bag they took and finds the limb inside.
"People have had their legs stolen and six blocks away, someone finds the leg thrown in the bushes," he said.
San Francisco police are in fact searching for the owner of a prosthetic leg that someone found abandoned against a tree a week ago, according to multiple news reports.
A gofundme site has been set up to help raise money for a new limb. Anyone with information about Steiner's leg can contact him at email@example.com.