Monday, February 17, 2014

Driving Timeline

I am FINALLY back on the road again!!!  The freedom of being able to come and go is one of the most important things in my life.  We all have busy schedules and being able to get yourself from point A to point B safely is huge.

There have been tons of questions about my driving with the progression of my disability.  Below is a timeline of how my driving has progressed.  

Age 15 

Even as a teenager, I was so excited about driving.  Just like today, back then, driving represented independence to me.  I was at the DMV the day I turned 15 to take my written test for my learner's permit. I passed and over the course of the next year I drove every chance I could get.  

At the time, my Dad had an old 1989 (something) four door, gold Cadillac.  This thing was a tank!! My friends called it the ghetto sled.  It was used in a bank robbery and had red ink stains all over the back seat from where the ink packs exploded all over the money.  I didn't care!!  It was a car and I was learning to drive.  

Age 16

The day I turned 16, I missed school so I could take my driving test.  Once again, I passed and complete independence was almost mine!  My parents had not found me a car yet so I drove an old 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme my Dad had.  It wasn't my dream car which was a Nissan 300 ZX but is was none the less a car.  

I wanted a five-speed and about two months after my 16 birthday, my Dad found a four door, five speed 1988 Honda Accord in my price range.  He took me to Middle Valley (about 35 minutes from our house) to pick it up.  

I had driven a five speed in a parking lot once before….it wasn't pretty.  I will never forget that first day in my new to me Honda.  My Dad told me he would follow me home.  It was time to sink or swim.  That was probably the longest ride home ever!  I remember sitting through three cycles on one red light because I could not keep the car from stalling.  I could see my Dad in the rearview mirror horse laughing at me.   It took a lot longer than 35 minutes but we finally made it home all in one piece.

Age 17

Once I had saved up a little money, I was ready to get something a little nicer than my Honda Accord.  I still couldn't afford my dream car (Nissan 300 ZX), but I did want a sports car.  I ended up getting a 2 door, automatic Mazda MX6.  I was only able to enjoy my new to me sports car for a short time.

My medical journey had began.  In a very short time, I was too weak to get in and out of the Mazda. My Dad found an old 1988 Ford Bronco II that I could drive.  It was much easier to get in and out of and turned out to be temporary because once off the steroids, I regained some of my strength.

Age 18

Surprise, surprise!!  Around my 18th birthday I got something even better than my dream car, I got a 1999 Mercedes SLK 230.  It wasn't the five speed I wanted but in was FABULOUS!!  I was completely off the steroids I had been prescribed and starting to regain a lot of my lost strength.

Age 19

As much as I LOVED my Mercedes, it was only a two seater car and couldn't haul much.  We located a used Nissan Xterra for me to use as a second vehicle.  It was great to have another car that would hold more people and stuff for road trips.  

Age 21

Some girls are intimidated by large cars....I'm not one of those girls!!  I always loved the look of the Chevrolet Suburbans......they were BIG!!  My dad had one and he didn't really like it, he's more of a Ford man.  When he finally decided to get something else he passed it along to me.  Let me tell you, that car went on for days and could haul lots of friends.  It was fabulous!!    

Age 23

As great as the Suburban was, I was starting to have some issues getting in it.  It was so tall that I would have to get my right foot on the running board and then up in the floor of the car.  In the beginning it was okay but as time went on, I needed to use my hands to lift my right leg into the car.  That caused me to balance myself on my left leg.  Getting out of the car was no problem because the car was so tall that my legs were already locked when my feet hit the ground.  I really hated to get rid of the Suburban but I didn't want to risk a fall trying to get in the car.
I must admit I love foreign cars.  And Nissan has always been a favorite of mine.  I ended up trading the Suburban in on a Nissan Pathfinder.  The Pathfinder worked much better for me.  The height was perfect.  It was 'butt height' for me.  All I had to do was slide right into it.  No more lifting my leg.  I could get in and out of it with no problems.

Age 24

I still loved driving my Mercedes but I was driving it less and less. That car was almost like a go cart. It was super easy to get in....all I had to do was fall over into it.  It was as close to the ground as you can get!!  The problem was getting out of it.  I just didn't have the quad strength to get out of it anymore.  I still wasn't completely ready to let go of my sports car days so we decide to get me a Lexus SC 430.  It was still a hard top convertible but it was a four seater and it was a little higher off the ground.  I was able to get out of it much better and it was just as fun to drive as the Mercedes had been.


By 2007, I was leaving the house less and less by myself.  My balance was really bad and I was afraid of falling while I was out.  I had put off the use of any assistive devices for as long as I could.  I needed a power wheelchair while out in the community.  I really didn't want a mini van, so we were in the market for a larger SUV that would hold a power wheelchair and a lift.

After many visits to multiple car lots, the only thing that would meet my needs was a Lexus GX 470.  We were able to fit a Bruno curb-sider lift and power wheelchair in the back that I could get in and out without any assistance.  I probably should have made this step months before I did, but I wasn't ready to use a power wheelchair.  

Age 29

I really waited too long before getting my next car.  My mobility had declined to the point I was using the power wheelchair everywhere I went.  I would even bring it in the house when I was at home.  I was walking less and less.  Getting to the back of the car to retrieve my wheelchair was almost impossible.  I needed a change and quick.  

I still didn't want a mini van so I search the internet high and low for any other option I could find.   I lucked upon a company called Freedom Sciences that had a product called ATRS.  Basically, it was a remote control system that allowed you to remotely drive your wheelchair from the driver side of the car to the rear entry and load it on a lift.  The bigger lift and wheelchair required a larger SUV.  Since I got rid of the Suburban years ago because I was having a hard time getting in it, I knew I would need help getting into this new SUV.  No worries, there is a really cool seat base for that.  The driver's seat is replaced with a base that will turn and come out of the car and lower to 18 inches off the ground.  I could transfer from my wheelchair to the driver's seat and remotely drive my wheelchair onto the lift in the back.  And that is how I came to be in a GMC Yukon XL (I told you liked big cars!).

Age 32

I loved my Yukon.  It allowed me to still feel as though I was a part of the able bodied community and all while having my wheelchair in the back.  Even thought the car had been adapted, I was still able to drive without any driving modifications.  All and all, it was fabulous...when it worked correctly.  Unfortunately with technology there are always issues.

The seat base broke on May 23, 2013.  By this time, Freedom Sciences had sold to Harmar and they were no longer offering the ATRS system.  It took three months for the seat to finally be fixed.  During this time, I was unable to drive at all and I lost the necessary strength I needed to safely drive.  

It was time.....I was out of options.  I had to have a mini van that I could drive from my wheelchair.  Suddenly when you are completely out of options, the one thing you never wanted becomes very appealing.  After not driving for three months, a mini van became the most fabulous car EVER!!

As of about three weeks ago, I drive from my wheelchair with electronic hand controls.

*****Some of the pictures above are pulled from the internet......I didn't have time to dig through all of my pictures.......I posted the ones I could find.*******


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