Lisa Hall, 57 from Bedfordshire, has retained her priceless ability to drive following a life-changing amputation, thanks to the support of a Driving Mobility centre.
The charity Driving Mobility accredits a network of 20 independent driving assessment centres with over 70 outreach facilities, which provide guidance to drivers with restricted mobility. Service users either self-refer or are signposted for assessment from the DVLA, Motability, the Police or NHS – so the most appropriate means of driving can be recommended.
Lisa was referred to a Driving Mobility centre early in 2020 after undergoing a fore quarter shoulder and arm amputation due to bone cancer. At this time one of Lisa’s main concerns was the possibility she would never drive again. However, her consultant at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital Stanmore assured Lisa she would be able to drive again. This led to a referral to a Driving Mobility centre (Herts Ability) via Lisa’s assigned Occupational Therapist (OT). The friendly and knowledgeable team at this independent charity would provide full assessment and recommendations regarding vehicle adaptations so Lisa could potentially drive comfortably with one arm.
Being able to drive again was a major focus for Lisa after her operation as she explains: “I needed to get behind the wheel as fast as I could after being in hospital. It was my main focus and a goal to aim for. I have always been a confident driver as I live on a farm and always running short notice errands for the business. Managing our busy 700-acre arable farm with my husband means I need to be driving for lots of jobs, from banking to collecting machinery parts. Not being able to drive would be a disaster.”
Lisa continues: “When you undergo an amputation you can be in a state of shock, you can lose yourself. My op could have had a massive impact on my life and business, especially as driving was vital for both. Even during time away from the farm, I was always the regular driver for my group of friends. I’ve always loved driving. This could have all been taken away from me. Thank goodness my consultant had confidence in me that I would be able to drive again one day. He said I’d find it second nature again with new controls. He was right and the Driving Mobility centre made it happen.”
Lisa’s assessment was booked for February 2020. She spoke to the Driving Mobility team beforehand and completed an online form, so a suitable vehicle was ready for her visit. The team explained what to expect during the assessment and offered calming reassurance. Lisa felt fine on the way to the centre as she says: “Despite a lot riding on being able to drive again and some anxiety, my apprehension was manageable thanks to the support I received from the centre. My husband drove me there, so I was even more relaxed on arrival. I hadn’t driven for several months so it really helped I felt no pressure from the staff, especially as they kept asking me if I was ok.”
“Once the initial welcome and meeting was completed, I was accompanied by a driving instructor and two therapists to a car adapted with a ‘lollipop’ steering knob. The instructor drove first and then it was my turn. I was given plenty of time to get used to the car on a quiet industrial estate before starting my 45-minute driving assessment. I feel comfortable and not stressed throughout the experience.”
When the driving assessment was complete, Lisa was given an appraisal of her performance and a written report. The ADI (Approved Driving Instructor) and OT (Occupational Therapist) explained their findings and recommendations regarding suitable vehicle adaptations. They felt with appropriate equipment Lisa could continue to drive safely and independently. A steering knob or ‘lollipop’ with ancillary controls including indicators, lights, horn and wipers was deemed ideal for Lisa’s disability. The necessary paperwork was processed that day and sent to the DVLA so Lisa’s licence could be updated, and her insurance company informed.
The adaptation to Lisa’s Land Rover Discovery then needed to be arranged. The Driving Mobility team were able to suggest several local vehicle adaptation specialists, so Lisa wasted no time in contacting them seeking assistance. She selected PB Conversions based in Leighton Buzzard who completed the work within a week – with the actual installation taking a few hours. As Lisa’s new steering ‘lollipop’ operates wirelessly, it can be easily clipped on and off the steering wheel so the car can be used with either standard or adapted controls.
Lisa concludes: “I was so lucky to complete my assessment and have my car adapted just before lockdown. Now I can definitely say being able to drive has given me my life back. I felt comfortable and supported throughout the whole process by the Driving Mobility centre and the steering controls they recommended are perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and was thrilled to pass my assessment! Using a car is now second nature to me again and we have flexibility with the controls so my husband can drive without the ‘lollipop’ attached, it’s so easy. Driving has always been a big part of my life and I am delighted to say this will now continue. I would encourage anyone in a similar position to do the same and give it a go, I thoroughly recommend Driving Mobility.”