When I am a passenger, I have to sit in the front of the car, as it is really hard to load the bionic leg into the smallish space between the seats without the socket digging into my groin. I am dependent on the driver to take the rollator, or wheelchair if I’m using that, and load it into the trunk, then bring it back to me when we arrive.
Now I can drive myself again! It is impossible to describe the feeling of freedom that being able to drive myself again gives me. I have a small SUV, with the door at the back opening to the side, fortunately not up. Actually, driving is the easy part – the real challenge lies in getting the rollator folded up and loaded into the back, then getting me around to the driver’s side and into the driving seat. I do this by leaning on the back door as I lift the rollator into the vehicle and by using the cane I keep in the back to support me as I feel my way along the side of the car.
Once I swing myself into the driving seat, I stretch my left leg onto the wheelbase and park the cane beside the seat. My right leg is free to work the brake and accelerator, just as I used to. Of course, it helps that the car is an automatic, otherwise it would be much harder to manage! Whenever I reach my destination, I simply reverse the process: get out, use the cane and side of the car for support to reach the back, open the door, lift the rollator down and park the cane in the back, ready for next time.
So far, my driving trips have been fairly short: to the doctor’s office, pharmacy, hairdresser, friends’ houses and oh yes, the very occasional shopping trip. I never was much of a shopper at the best of times, so I’m quite happy to leave most of that to my husband (who loves shopping anyway!). Although there are very few of them left, I have found a couple of full-serve service stations, where I can sit in state while the attendant fills the car up, takes my credit card and brings me the bill to sign. All in all, it’s worth the extra cost per litre (usually a few cents more than the self-serve stations).
Parking can be a challenge, even with the disability badge. This is especially true at shopping centres and restaurants. It’s amazing how often all the disabled parking spots are already occupied, although unfortunately not all the cars in them display disability badges. I give the benefit of the doubt to their owners having mobility issues, and it’s just a matter of them leaving the badge at home. On the plus side, I am constantly impressed by the kindness of complete strangers who will stop and offer to help when they see me loading or unloading the rollator. I usually accept, on the grounds that it will give them a nice warm fuzzy feeling at doing their good deed for the day – I am independent, but not a fanatic about it!
So if you are used to driving yourself and want to regain that independence, check with your doctor first, then go for it – I’m living proof it can be done.