Dr Mary Stevenson, 54 from Anglesey, has become a Trustee of The Wales Mobility and Driving Assessment Service after its team ensured her driving freedom following a stroke.
The Wales Mobility and Driving Assessment Service is a registered charity whose main office is based at Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff. The North Wales Centre is based at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Denbighshire The overall service is managed by the Director based in South Wales supported by Centre Managers in the north and south Mobility Centres. The charity is an accredited member of Driving Mobility which is an umbrella organisation made up of twenty member centres, many with satellite centres nationwide, which offer professional information, advice and driving assessments to people seeking independent mobility. All centres are staffed by Occupational Therapists as well as Approved Driving Instructors so that safety for drivers with injuries, disabilities or restricted mobility is maximised. As well as conducting assessments on behalf of the DVLA, Motability and health professionals such as Doctors, Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists, Driving Mobility also accept self-referrals.
During her rehabilitation, Mary employed the services of one of these centres so that she could learn to drive again and crucially, regain confidence on the road. Without the help and support of The Wales Mobility and Driving Assessment Service, Mary’s driving freedom would have been lost forever.
Mary, who originates from Glasgow, was 37 and working as a hospital consultant specialising in Genitourinary Medicine and AIDS in Birmingham, when she was diagnosed with a giant brain aneurysm. As the aneurysm was acting like a tumour, there were recognised symptoms which allowed an operation to be scheduled. However, Mary was informed the surgery would be extremely difficult and inherent risks meant a low survival prognosis. Mary defied the odds to survive the operation but experienced a stroke in the process. She spent the next few weeks on ventilation before being moved to Hillcrest Hospital in Birmingham for three months of rehabilitation.
During this time Mary notified the DVLA of her change in circumstances, her driving ability was assessed by the hospital’s mobility centre and she had to return her license. Four years ago, Mary and her husband moved to Anglesey and she made a New Year’s Eve resolution to learn to drive again. An online search highlighted Driving Mobility and Mary contacted her nearest centre – The Wales Mobility and Driving Assessment Service.
Mary explains: “I had no idea what to expect but from the moment I arrived, the staff were very friendly and made everything so straightforward for me. They really held my hand throughout the whole process – from start to finish. I was assessed by an Occupational Therapist to ascertain my abilities and driving requirements and then Gary Jones, the Centre Manager, accompanied me for a drive in an automatic car. As I can only use one hand, the car had a steering knob fitted with secondary controls so I could use all controls safely and independently. After a few hours, I left with a full plan of action advised by the centre.”
Mary comments: “Driving Mobility recommended an external driving instructor, who was a specialist in teaching people with disabilities, who helped me initially. Then Chris Jones became my new instructor, driving to my home to collect me for lessons. Around this time, my husband had a cardiac pacemaker fitted and couldn’t drive for a few months. I thought – what if neither of us were able to drive permanently and yet lived in a rural area? This really spurred me on and with Chris’ encouragement and support, I completed my final driving assessment in June 2017, allowing me to begin driving independently again.”
Mary now drives a Seat Ibiza with a steering knob and Lodgesons secondary controls. She is delighted to be behind the wheel once again and is continuing to gain confidence with ongoing support from Chris. She is also thrilled to have recently been invited to join the centre’s Board of Trustees and hopes her driving and medical experience can be helpful to other people in similar situations.
Mary concludes: “It can be very difficult to hear the news that you shouldn’t be driving. Knowing that facilities such as the Driving Mobility centres are available to assess people and to advise on matters such as driving adaptations and specialist tuition can be extremely helpful – to both doctors and members of the public. I am extremely thankful for the experience I have had with Driving Mobility. They have been absolutely brilliant. I hope through being on the Board of Trustees of The Wales Mobility and Driving Assessment Service that I can support other people, in the way that Driving Mobility has supported me.”