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I've reached (achieved?) several major milestones in my disease progression, such as:
- informing my loved ones
- starting and stopping various treatments
- using a mobility aid (cane) in public for the first time
- installing hand controls for driving
- buying my first wheelchair (iBot)
- leaving the workforce
- qualifying for disability benefits
- surrendering my driver’s license
First, as expected, my withering left hand was having difficulty operating the brake and gas lever of my hand controls. I was increasingly compensating for my weakness in a couple of ways. I would habitually overuse the cruise control function, so as to rest my left arm more often. Also, I would routinely place the vehicle in park when I was waiting at a red light, again, to rest my left arm. I had learned to ignore the protesting horn toots I heard if I was too slow getting off the starting line on green lights.
Second, I needed to be able to transfer from my wheelchair to the driver’s seat. I am aware that some disabled drivers operate their vehicles directly from their wheelchairs, but I didn't want to do that. In February of this year it was becoming nearly impossible for me to transfer from my wheelchair to the standard driver’s seat, so I invested part of my tax refund in a power adjustable driver's seat, which made the transfer easier. In the last couple of months, though, my transfers were becoming problematic again, even with the power adjustable seat. This expensive adaptation only bought me eight additional months of driving.
The third challenge was one that I had not mentioned here before, and that I wasn't even aware of until the last month or so. I used my right hand and arm to operate the steering wheel, by gripping something fondly referred to as a suicide knob. Of late, however, it had become increasingly difficult for me to make 90° turns as required at intersections, because of weakness in my right arm and hand. On my last couple of drives I even found myself briefly letting go of the gas lever with my left hand to assist my right hand in turning the steering wheel at intersections. This caused me to unexpectedly decelerate when negotiating certain right and left hand turns – sometimes at busy intersections. It would only have been a matter of time before somebody rear-ended me.
I'm aware that there are more extraordinary driving accommodations that I could still employ. For example, I know that I could drive using a joystick-like device. If my disability was stable- if I wasn't constantly getting worse- then incorporating these adaptations might make sense. But enough is enough. It's time to let it go.
So it was the confluence of these three factors that led me to the decision that I'd been dreading for months, maybe even years. However, because of changes that we've made in our lifestyle, most notably because of relocating to a very walkable neighborhood, this loss may not be as bad as I had once feared. The experience might be less than traumatic.
Why am I not more distraught? Have I compensated that well or am I simply becoming proficient at coping with loss? Probably a little of both.
This long anticipated day is finally behind me, and I didn't injure or kill anyone in the process. I didn't even have a fender-bender the entire 6½ years that I drove with my hands. I'm comfortable that I gave up driving neither prematurely nor belatedly. (Even if I did, would I admit it?)
There are several public transportation options available to me from my new house. I'm going to start trying them out. Rest assured that I'll report back here regarding the experience.
So how do I feel about this loss? I’m experiencing several emotions, but chief among them is simply relief.
There. Done. Moving on.