MEENA_DHANJAL_OUTLAW_headshot5_300_375_c1-(1).jpgI must confess, as superficial as it sounds, one of the things that hurt me the most after I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis is when I had to sell my crossover SUV. The crossover SUV had become a symbol of how far I had come in being an independent woman after my spinal cord injury.

Being at home without being able to drive was very hard, even though I knew I needed to be resting to recover. Yet, a huge part of my independence and self-fulfillment has been having a car to get around in - without any . Also as a mother, it means a great deal to me to be able to take care of my children as independently as possible.

I found out that the Texas Department of Rehabilitative and Assistive Services (DARS) had given their approval to help fund the modifications for a minivan, and I was very excited. However, since my limitations affected more than just my legs, I needed to have a mobility evaluation. To do this I had to work with a rehabilitative service company that has certified driver rehabilitation specialists. Their primary focus is to evaluate or train a person with physical limitations to drive a car, and they can only do this by deciding in what capacity a person can actually operate a vehicle.

To receive funding I had to provide DARS with adequate information including, current medical records from all the doctors that have been treating me for Myasthenia Gravis, my medical records from the spinal cord injury rehabilitation physicians, a signed prescription from my rehabilitation doctor permitting me to be able to drive a vehicle, and the approved evaluation from the certified driver rehabilitation specialists. I will pay for the purchase price of the van, but DARS will pay for the modifications.

My heart soared with anticipation at the prospect of driving again, but, I was surprised and nervous by the intensity of the evaluation I would be paticipating in. Fifteen years ago I just needed to learn how to drive with hand controls, but now with my increased limitations the testing would be much more involved.

I underwent a cognitive test, a defensive driving test, and an eye test. As am I already trained to drive a modified vehicle, I didn’t need to have a road test through DARS.

On the day I met with the certified occupational therapist driving instructor I watched as she opened the van with a remote that activated the door and lowered a ramp. I drove my power wheelchair up the ramp and into the van, positioning myself in front of the steering wheel. It felt odd sitting in the wheelchair as I started the ignition. Just a few months ago, I was in a manual wheelchair and was accustomed to transferring myself in the car, breaking down my chair, and placing the parts in the passenger seat beside me. In this van the therapist had tied my power wheelchair down to the floorboard. My own van will have a locking device placed under my power chair for added stability.

When we pulled out I suddenly became nervous. I had never driven a minivan, let alone one with hand controls. In addition, I’d only been in my power wheelchair for about three months. I remembered then the last time I had stopped driving was because I couldn’t see, and I reminded myself how far I had come. As I proceeded to drive through residential streets, main roads and the highway, I felt thankful. I also remembered just how quickly I had adapted fifteen years ago whereby after just a few weeks it became second nature to drive a modified car, and that gave me further confidence.

I passed the mobility evaluation, so when DARS and the dealership give me the green light, I will get to pick up my new modified minivan! I am thinking now about PROGRESS and how sweet it is!

Meena Dhanjal Outlaw, Guest Blogger


Meena Dhanjal Outlaw, Guest Blogger