Last Friday I had a driving lesson/evaluation at my rehab center. I thought the strangest part would be learning to use the hand-controlled vehicle. I really wasn't prepared for how weird it would feel to be driving at all. It's been eight months since I was behind the wheel of a car and it took a while to get used to it.
Part of the purpose of the lesson was to prepare me to take a road test to get a modified license. We started off in a neighborhood and I drove around the block a few times. Suddenly, it looked like a drivers-ed video-- there were construction trucks stopped in the middle of the street, a school bus, people running stop signs... I really expected a ball to come bouncing out onto the road at any moment. The instructor and I joked that she had all these people on her payroll.
Eventually we went through a busy downtown and then on a highway for a few miles. Learning the hand-controls came easy, getting comfortable with driving again also came back quickly but the feeling I couldn't shake was that I was 16 again, learning to drive and being scrutinized at every turn. In the end I got a passing grade and was told I could go right into a license exam. I told them I would feel more comfortable with another practice session, so we're planning on that.
The next step: Get our car outfitted with hand-controls. The problem: After last week's hit-and-run we don't know if the car will be a total loss or not. Consequently, we're on hold for the moment. Still, driving is on the horizon-- something to look forward to. Now I just have to build up the tolerance for it. An hour and a half behind the wheel pretty much wiped me out for the rest of the day.
I'm really looking forward to going to the rehab center today. Last week, I worked with my physical therapist on what they call "gait training" (i.e. walking). I got into a harness which is designed to "unweight" me: I stand on a treadmill and the harness lifts me up a little bit and I walk. I managed to walk at about one and a half miles per hour. A year ago I would have considered that a Sunday-afternoon-no-where-to-go-stroll but it felt more like a get-out-the-way-I'm-in-a-hurry-trot.
It went so well we decided to try it without the harness and, free from the constraints, I actually walked better. It helped, too, to have a mirror in front of me so I could better coordinate the sequence of movements. Anyway, my therapist gave me the go-ahead to use the treadmill as part of my independent work outs at the rehab clinic. Which is where I'm going right now.