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The Accident

 

 

I have chronic progressive multiple sclerosis.  When this situation occurred, I was using a scooter or a walker as mobility aids, depending on my needs.  For quite some time, I continued driving to work because I didn't feel like I had a choice.  Too often, public buses didn't stop to let me on—perhaps because of the extra time it would take to load me and the scooter. The paratransit van that comes to your door is notoriously unreliable in my area. I kept driving until the Universe made the decision for me.

One morning, as I adjusted myself in the van’s seat, my legs were unusually uncomfortable, but I couldn't waste time on this.  I had to get to work and I already was running late!  As my van moved toward the first intersection, less than a block from my house, my leg spasmed and my knee locked with my foot still on the accelerator.  I burned rubber through the intersection, but luckily made it through unscathed.

Unfortunately, there was a second major intersection a few blocks down the road.  While I tried steering with one hand and moving my leg with the other, this dangerously awkward position just increased my speed.  As I flashed through this second intersection, I did not notice a curve in the road.  As a result, my van vaulted over a high curb, scraped between a light pole and a tree, and hit a parked car head on.   While I had no apparent injuries (thanks to the airbag and seatbelt), both vehicles were completely totaled. I remember sitting there, spitting pieces of broken windshield glass out of my mouth, and noticing that the windshield was gone, the passenger side was totally crushed and the contents of the glove compartment were scattered in the backseat.

When a police officer arrived to write up the accident report, he asked for my driver's license.  At that moment, I knew that I was done driving forever, even though the officer refused to take my license away. When my family caregiver arrived, I gave it to her to store away until I applied for my state ID.

Luckily, it was surprisingly easy to find people willing to drive me to work.  My many friends were relieved that one less menace was off the road, but were afraid to pressure me to forfeit my license. Now that the decision was a fait accompli, they rallied to support my desire to keep working.  I paid some friends who needed work, arranged a list of backup people, and my family caregiver filled in the spots when our schedules overlapped.  For the most part, this arrangement worked surprisingly well.

As I write this, I feel very fortunate to have survived the accident.  But I can't help wondering why my doctor, family caregiver, and friends hadn't been more adamant in expressing their concerns about my driving.  I would've been angry and resentful, but I now realize that I was a hazard to myself and others. 

Pictures of the accident are available at the following publicly accessible link:  http://photos.aetnahhl.org/default.aspx?aid=218
 

The author is living with chronic progressive multiple sclerosis. Although she is cared for during the day by a CNA, her primary care is provided by a family caregiver. She told us that she has no complaints about the help she is receiving but believes the lessons learned from her experience would have been helpful to her and to all caregivers. She believes it would be especially helpful for those caring for the elderly.

 

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