There are risks associated with buying used electric or motorized wheelchairs from places that do not specialize in that kind of medical equipment, according to Lea Rosenauer with Project MEND.

"We really do not recommend that anyone purchase these pieces of durable medical equipment from a flea market, garage sale or off of Craigslist," said Rosenauer.

Project MEND is a local non-profit that refurbishes donated, used medical equipment to supply to low income patients for a $20 service fee plus the cost of any necessary batteries.

It requires patients to provide proper ID, a prescription and proof of income.

On Tuesday, an 82-year-old man suffered second-degree burns when his electric wheelchair malfunctioned and caught fire. His family said he bought the chair from a local flea market after he could not get help from Medicare to replace his old one.

"There are diseases that can be passed on. They may not be clean, they may not be disinfected," Rosenauer said. "Batteries may be leaking. Wires may not be contained."

Before making your purchase, Rosenauer said you should thoroughly inspect the batteries and wiring, but that's not an easy task.

"In order to check that you almost have to take that chair apart," she said. "If you were going to buy a used car, you'd want your mechanic to check it out. You want someone with that mechanical knowledge to at least look at the machine."

Just like the patients who need the equipment, wheelchairs come in all different shapes and sizes to suit the individual.

Rosenauer recommends you research specific models to see if they meet your needs and to find out if that model has been subject to recall or other complications.

Most often, recall information can be found on the manufacturer's website or with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Model names and numbers can be found on the outside of electric wheelchairs, but serial numbers are often located on the interior of the machine.

"It might be shiny, there might be no tears on the upholstery, and it might look like its going to work perfectly, but underneath that's where the dangers might lie," Rosenauer said.

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