Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why is it so difficult?

Why is it so difficult? I believe we all see it as a rite of passage a time when you graduate from being a teen to a young adult. A time when you are entrusted with something more valuable than you've ever possessed and also something which can be potentially destructive if used inappropriately. If you have not guessed by now I'm referring to the privilege of having one's driver's license, not the right the privilege of being able to take a vehicle out for a spin, windows rolled down air rushing in that feeling of freedom which can only be surpassed by riding a motorcycle if you ever had the opportunity to do so.

This week I am faced with making a difficult decision, do I try and maintain my driving privileges or do I abandon my right rather my privilege to drive.
I can recall my first lessons mom gave me, when I passed my exams which were by far much easier than those administered today. Next I tackled learning shift on my future father-in-law's Citroen, if you've never driven one of these the gears are reversed from what you would normally find in a vehicle. Quite a few years later I had to return in order to obtain my chauffeur's license permitting me to drive hospital vehicles. Never had a problem believe it or not in close to 40 years of driving I received one speeding ticket in Mississauga, one perhaps two parking violations, one accident which I was definitely responsible for luckily no one body was hurt and that's it my 40 year driving history. Not bad by all accounts I'm certain you've heard or experienced much worse.

When MS showed up it certainly wasn't a problem until one time I realized using my right hand to lift my right leg from the gas to the break pedal and vice versa was probably not the safest way to drive on the 401 so I had a left foot accelerator pedal installed in our vehicle. This was at a time when all you required was a note from your doctor indicating that you had sufficient strength in your other leg to safely operate a motor vehicle.

That was it, no tests no evaluation once the pedal was installed you found an empty parking lot and practiced for a while. This functioned well for several years until MS affected my left leg, at one point I recall making a decision to simply stop driving. Fortunately I kept renewing my driver's permit so that when we moved from Ontario to Québec my permit was recognized however when I wheeled in the licensing office with my manual wheelchair to exchange my permit well let's say there were a few medical forms requiring completion.

A few years later I graduated to hand controls, power assisted steering different from your regular power steering as the strength of your arms is taken into account and the steering is adjusted accordingly.

A host of other modifications resulted in a 2008 Toyota Siena which I could manage on my own. While I may not have used it extensively it sure felt good when I was able to use it if I wanted to.

A few weeks ago I received a form from our licensing bureau requesting a medical examination consisting of pretty well everything you can think of. My eyes checked out okay last week at the optometrist and after paying to have her complete her section of the paperwork I began to question if it was logical for me to continue. The next physician to get the form would be my family doctor, which I like don't get me wrong but let's face it in today's practice they don't do very much except point you in the right direction referring you to a specialist for virtually everything. Next in line an ear specialist to see if my hearing is okay followed by a visit to my neurologist to attest that yes I can drive a modified vehicle. While it's being handed from one physician to do next there is one small box which any physician on way can simply tick off which would place everything into question initiating a request for a follow-up with an OT and that's one if any that I would in all likelihood fail and probably do so miserably.

You see my hands don't work as they once did the strength I once had just isn't there. There is little if any sensation left in my fingers and my hands are numb most of the time, even with the assisted power steering I sometimes find it difficult in addition I get tired quickly. Last time I drove was approximately 6 months ago and with all honesty I don't really miss it, besides driving from your wheelchair is certainly not as comfortable as sitting in a nice drivers seat.
So with all this you would think it would be a no-brainer yet why is it so difficult? I haven't driven in six months and I don't really miss it why can't I simply return my license?

Looking at it objectively, it's something that I simply don't want to let go of yet I'm not stupid certainly not stupid enough to endanger other people because I am not fit to drive. If only I was able to keep it in my wallet it wouldn't be so bad or it certainly wouldn't seem so bad yet to send it away well that's admitting I've lost something else, another thing to MS and those things which are taken away at least in my case never return.

Of course I'll take a few more days to think about it possibly even go for my last spin and if I do you can be assured that I will be taking some photographs as a reminder of that moment in time when I had kept MS at bay albeit if only for a brief perion in time.


Karen said...

Oh...this is a tough one. Driving represents freedom, choice, and independence. Having to give it up, can feel like you have lost all those things.

I don't know which would be harder, being told you are not capable of driving anymore, or deciding yourself not to renew your license.

Should you go through all the required medical examinations to determine if you can keep your license? If it means that much to you, to have that active license in your wallet, then I would say, give it a go.

But if you already know that your driving days are over, and you don't really miss it, then why put yourself through all those tests.

Sometimes it is better to let things go, rather than have them taken away.

Not an easy choice Michael. I wish you all the best in making your decision.

Anonymous said...

I handed mine in before it was taken off me - one last act in my control! It was still incredibly sad and hard to stomach. Even though I had been in my wheelchair for a while it was the first time I felt truly different to the rest of the population - might sound over dramatic, but I think I underestimated at the time just how much it was going to hit me.

Whatever you decide is the best decision for you - but it's not really about the driving! (And of course now, a year or so later, I couldn't give two hoots about it!)

Good luck!

Muffie said...

I'm starring in the same dilemma -- my license is due for renewal this summer. I think I'll have it renewed, even though I no longer drive. Maybe someday I'll get back the ability, and I won't have to reapply. It's also good ID.
When my right leg got weak, I just used it for the gas pedal, and taught myself to use the left foot on the brake. Now my right hand is so bad, I can't even turn the key in the ignition, and switching gears is nearly impossible. So, I've become adjusted to being a passenger -- not so bad really.

MikeH said...

As always thank you for your comment it means a lot.
Personally I think I would feel better if I turned in my license by my own and certainly wouldn't want to cause any type of situation where the license would be revoked. That would in essence mean something happened and that frightens me.
The funniest thing is I'm still carrying the letter meant for my family physician in a bag attached to my wheelchair in the event that I would want to drop it off eventually.
Time will tell.

You know you're right it's not really about the driving I mean I haven't driven for six months and I don't miss it so what is it?
I'm leaning towards handing them in.

I definitely think it's a good idea to renew the license even if you do not drive, one never knows what the future holds and it would be a shame to have to start everything over again.
You may already be aware yet there are small cheap devices made of plastic which you slip over your key and gives you something much bigger to hold on to and with more leverage when turning the key. Consider a hand controlled unit for the gas and brake, they are extremely easy to use and very safe. Thanks for sharing.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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