Getting my life back: driving

Several weeks ago, I started the process of getting myself back on the road. I thought – naively, as it turns out – that this would be relatively straightforward.

Given that right ankle flexion is the specific problem, it seemed that some sort of adaptation allowing me drive without having to rely on that ankle was in order…┬áThe advice given, from everyone who had an opinion, was that the first step towards getting a vehicle adaptation is to have a driving assessment. The idea is to confirm the adaptation most suited to my needs and get some advice on the process.

I was pretty confident from some initial research that a left-foot accelerator adaptation would be the way forward, but it did seem sensible to get expert advice before committing myself. (I would have to change my car, after all – mine’s currently manual, and all the adaptations I have seen required an automatic.)

So, I sent off a form in the post to my nearest driving assessment provider (in Bristol), and a month later with not so much an acknowledgement of receipt from them – never mind an appointment – phoned to check the situation. I had deliberately not provided either consent or a request to obtain medical reports as it was not – so I thought – relevant or necessary… But apparently this had ground the whole process to a halt and they couldn’t deal with someone who just wants simple practical advice rather than a medical assessment. Really? Really?!

In any case, I was told, even if the occupational therapist who would be carrying out the assessment could be persuaded to do it without a medical report, the earliest available appointment would be in October. At this rate, I wouldn’t be on the road before Christmas, and certainly not soon enough for that summer road trip solo with my daughter I was so looking forward to… Bum.

Not one to give up so easily, I moved to Plan B. A guy I met having Tysabri in the hospital last week suggested that rather than waiting (and waiting, and waiting) my way through the driving assessment process, it might be worth ringing round the local Motability garages to see if anyone had a ready-adapted car I could try out, so that was my next port of call.

Several “sorry, no” phone calls later, I spoke to the Motability guy at the Ford garage who was having a left-foot accelerator fitted for another customer and suggested I call the company doing the fitting to see if they could help. The guy at the vehicle adaptation garage suggested I call a local man he knows that does disability driving instruction. The disability driving instructor said that yes, he has a left-foot accelerator adapted vehicle – and yes, he can provide instruction and a taster session – and, although very much in demand and very very busy, yes, he can just about fit me in. In fact, he has a cancellation so I’m having a driving lesson later today!

Wow. Wowzers! After a while, I had started to resign myself to this being a very long and difficult process and all of a sudden there is this game-changing breakthrough… Wowee!

I would have preferred to give my alemtuzumab recovery a bit longer before taking to the road but this seemed like an opportunity too rare and golden to miss. I will just have to take things steady today and conserve as much energy as possible to make the most of it, I don’t want to be falling asleep behind the wheel!



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