Despite MS, I’m regaining the desire to get behind the wheel

I'll fight my disease to gain the independence to drive to a coffee shop

Mike Parker avatar

by Mike Parker |

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At the age of 40, I’ve never passed my driving test. I know that’s shocking.

Here in the United Kingdom, we must pass two sections to be licensed to drive: a theory test and the practical test. I’ve passed the theory part three times but was never able to pass the driving test, and if you don’t pass that part, a theory pass is good for only two years. My failures knocked my confidence, causing me to move the idea to the back of my mind for many years.

After discussions with my doctor and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, I was deemed safe to learn to drive. But because of numbness in my feet and legs, I felt I couldn’t do it, so the idea slipped away. It’s been a long time since I thought it was possible for me to start driving, but now I have a genuine drive to do it. Sorry, that’s a bad pun.

Why now? What’s changed?

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Adding some control to my life

Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in August 2022, I’ve had to sacrifice lots of my freedoms. So after taking some time to assess what my next post-diagnosis challenge would be, I’ve decided that driving is the best way to give myself back some control.

A few of my troublesome symptoms have included foot drop, when signals aren’t being properly sent to the nerves in my right leg; toes that drag across the ground when I walk; and difficulty walking in general because I quickly become fatigued. I can go out alone only if I use Shelby, the name for my mobility scooter. That has only added to my desire to drive. I’m determined one day to get into the car and grab a coffee or go shopping.

What do the doctor and driving agency say? It’s straightforward: I’m good to go as long as I can control a vehicle and maintain concentration, and the doctor is happy that it seems safe for me. Both tell me a car can be adapted, meaning the brake and accelerator would be moved so I could do the peddle work by hand. I’m no mechanic, but that sounds ingenious.

What do I do now?

First, I’ll take the theory test again. I won’t share the date, but it’s soon, so I’m focusing on that in the short term. While I plan for that, I’ll also be finding a driving instructor before getting behind the wheel. That step will be tough to achieve, but the idea of having this independence excites me.

I feel pride when I find ways to improve by fighting back against MS. I refuse to be a prisoner of my own body. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it: I’ve got MS; MS hasn’t got me.

Bring on this next challenge because it’s long overdue.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Brian Martin avatar

Brian Martin

Like you, most of my symptoms manifest in my right leg. I can still control the acceleration of the vehicle using my entire right leg on the gas pedal (rather than the fine touch by flexing my right foot), but it is difficult to switch pedals from the gas to the brake. Thus, I have taught myself to brake with my left foot. Our new car has adaptive cruise control and then has helped immensely as well. We are all different and we have to adapt. Cheers!

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Robert Steiert avatar

Robert Steiert

I'm in the U S. My right leg mobility became so bad that I had to give up driving because I couldn't get my foot from the accelerator to the brake fast or reliably enough to avoid an accident. I hired a disability driving instructor to show me different options and to teach me how to use them. I decided on a Veigel hand control that attaches electronically to the accelerator and mechanically to the brake. I love it and now I can drive better with my hands than I did with my feet. Most of the options attach mechanically to both brake and accelerator, which works okay as well. Here in the U S I had to pay for everything, but I would expect the British health system to pay for at least the basic model for you. It's wonderful to have complete independence again.

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beth avatar

beth

OMG same situation here PPMS, Scooter, drop foot just had the hand controls put in took 12 lessons and its so hard
then once I get somewhere all I have is a walker- So what will you do to take the scooter?
thx
Beth Broun

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James Finnie avatar

James Finnie

Mike,
Go for it.
I gave up driving for 2 years when I coildn't move my foot from accelertator to brake quick enough for my own liking.
I now use hand controls for both functions and have only looked back in the rear view mirror since then.
I had lessons with BSM who have a small fleet of adapted cars.You will need to have an assessment with with your local authority and you should start by looking online for more relevant pointers,(I used https://hertsability.org.uk/).

Good luck and make sure you get a PIP assessment if you haven't done so yet as it could help you with cost going forward.

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denise egan avatar

denise egan

More power to you fellow warrior 👊🏻
Keep pushing your MS and gain the confidence to do this theory test, get some lessons & drive yourself to get coffee 👏
As my Instagram name says “MS_ain’t_got_me !
Hope all goes well for you ✅

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Scott Thomford avatar

Scott Thomford

Driving a motor vehicle is all about DEFENSIVE driving. Expect the unexpected. Inspect your vehicle before getting behind the wheel or handlebars as the case may be. After my first MS attack, I stopped drinking alcohol altogether for fear of having any alcohol whatsoever in my system if and when I had another MS attack. You owe it to yourself and us other motorists.

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