So this week I had my first hand control driving lesson. I survived, as did the car, my instructor, and Dunstable. Hurrah! After 30 years of ‘normal’ driving – which Mrs W would tell you was pretty crap anyway – it’s a very counter-intuitive way of getting around. I’m pretty sure nature didn’t plan for this. I can only pray I get used to it.
In my instructor’s version at least, a big handle – about the size and shape of a brass door knob – is attached to the steering wheel, and I use my left hand to steer with that. On the right hand side is a push/pull mechanism. You hold onto it constantly, pushing to brake, pulling to accelerate. A tiny switch on top of that lets you indicate. Perhaps I can pretend it’s a bit like James Bond’s eject button?
I confess I haven’t yet got full control of the braking. It is overly sensitive, so more often than not as I pull up at a junction or a roundabout, I pretty much emergency stop. Or I totally emergency stop. Oops… And given I’m constantly holding onto the push-pull thingie and the steering wheel, I haven’t yet figured out how to scratch my nose, or how to wave thanks to other drivers. May have to bribe passengers to do that.
I was already considering trying out hand controls before being forced to, knowing that the time was drawing nigh, with my left leg useless, and my right leg quickly heading that way. I’t’s been three or four years I’ve only been able to drive automatics, but my hand was forced – pun intended – by a whopper of a prang I had in the Autumn, Nobody was hurt thank goodness, but I wrote off the car in front of me (their air bags blew too), while the car beyond that got a small dent. All my fault – a lapse of concentration as I passed an interesting-looking pub. But there’s a part of me that suspects I could have emergency stopped if my right leg had been that bit stronger…
There’s a lot of inward sighing and harumphing as I take this on board, but just as when I finally started using a wheelchair and a mobility scooter, I know the cringe phase will pass and actually life will be more comfortable and safer for me and those around me. And just as with the chair and scooter, I’ll actually be snatching back some independence from that dastardly MS. My shrinking world will flourish again just a bit, maybe only for a while. And I’ll wish I did it yonks ago…
Four to six lessons apparently, then an assessment (yikes). So if in the next few weeks you see a dashingly handsome middle-aged man nervously frog-hopping a learner car down Dunstable High Street… Best give me space.
#multiple sclerosis #chronic illness #disability #MS Life