First drive around town deemed a success
Monday, December 09, 2013 2:31 AM
When a person hasn't driven in a very long time, the thought of getting back behind the wheel can be both daunting and a little scary.
It was time to prove it is possible to get gas even with a less-than-100-percent left hand and leg, and with a cane, not visible. KAY BROCKWAY/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
The Sunday following Thanksgiving I took my first baby steps toward driving again and found myself facing both emotions. I surely didn't admit them to my intended co-pilot and passenger, friend, former co-worker and now the happily-retired Kay Brockway.
Oh no. In asking Kay (and another who claimed to be too busy to go, uh huh) I was all bravado and excitement. Of course, I was excited. Driving is a major step back toward independence and a semi-normal life - well, as "normal" a life as I ever had anyway.
Since my life-threatening fall followed by an in-hospital stroke in September of 2012, I've been restricted from driving by my doctors. The stroke took away my left peripheral vision in both eyes.
Interestingly, each state sets its own vision requirements for drivers licensing, typically involving both acuity, such as 20/20 vision or correction to such a standard, as well as the visual field of the horizon from side to side. As to the latter, for example, South Dakota really has no requirement, while Wisconsin merely calls for a 20-degree field of vision - which you and I might call tunnel vision. Scary, huh? But true. In those two states I could have been driving already, as long as my doctors also gave their blessings.
Minnesota licensing law has an acuity standard, as well as requiring a 105-degree field of vision between one usable or both eyes. With much-reduced left peripheral vision in each of my eyes, I believe I've been told my field of vision stands around 90 degrees with both eyes.
To further explain what that means so you can visualize - pun intended - let's say I extend my left arm and hand out from my left side and then move it back in. If I'm looking straight ahead, which is how field of vision is calculated, I don't see that left arm in my peripheral vision field until it's almost straight in front of me.
But there is a saving grace - to SCAN the field of vision by physically turning and moving one's head and/or eyes. Drivers certainly do this at times, especially when turning, in the normal course of an excursion. However, I need to do it constantly to pick up things to my left, which I otherwise wouldn't catch in my reduced peripheral vision.
So, Kay and I drove around Preston. Yeah! I was driving for the first time since Sept. 5, 2012!
Now me - I was so happy I wanted people to know of my attempt to drive. Hence, this column. I also posted the news on Facebook where I received over 165 "likes." Many comments ran to "great news," "one more important step in recovery," "a return to independence" and "you're an inspiration" - although I continue to say, hey, I'm just doing what any person in my shoes would do.
I want people to see me driving and share the joy. Heck, I pulled over to the curb on one street to yell through Kay's open window at an acquaintance in his yard putting up Christmas decorations. "Woo hoo, I'm out on my first drive since last year," I screamed with what I'm sure was a big, honkin', ear-to-ear grin.
For good measure, I also had my cane along. I stopped to get gas and at the bank's ATM, just to see how I would handle stopping, getting out and accomplishing tasks. It went well, although I still hope and would like to see big improvements in my shaky left arm, hand and leg.
The next steps are for me to drive more, working up to busier roads with faster traffic. If all goes well - and I hope it does - I then need to schedule a behind-the-wheel driver's license test, to see if my scanning abilities can pass the requirements of real driving situations.
Gulp. There's a lot ahead for me. I'm excited and scared and optimistic all at once.
As always, thanks for the support and wish me well. And remember - there's a real chance now that it might be me, Lisa, in case you think you see a black Jeep Cherokee around Preston.