Adapting to life without licence
ROBYN BLACKBURN, MDC ROAD SAFETY CO-ORDINATOR, AND BEV DOOLE
Des McKenzie's job depended on driving but, as an epileptic with Parkinson's Disease, he knew the time would come when he would have to give up.
"I drove all the time. I had my own truck and trailer transporter.
"But when my medication changed I started hallucinating and couldn't sleep. I didn't feel like I should be on the road - I was a danger to myself and other people," said Des.
For Des, who turns 60 this month, it was his own decision to stop driving. But for many who are told to stop driving for health reasons the news comes as a shock.
"The biggest fear is the loss of independence," says Belinda Boyce, field officer for the Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's Society.
Part of her job is helping people adjust to life without a car and showing them there are other ways to get out and about.
"The Blenheim bus is free if you have a super gold card, or it is just a $2 fare."
Another option is the St John Health Shuttle, which is a door-to-door service for anyone with health or mobility problems who needs to get to a medical appointment.
Many people, including Des, get support from their family.
"I have a sister in Springlands and a brother in Redwoodtown who help out if I want anything or need a ride.
"Also, living in Mayfield, I can walk in to town in about eight minutes.
"I try to organise it so my appointments are bunched together. I have good days and bad days with Parkinson's and I've worked out to stay at home on my off days."
Des moved down from Rotorua in 2009 and is struck by the kindness of Blenheim people.
"They go out of their way to help. I can't write now, I can't hold a pen. But if I go to the Post Office the staff fill in the forms for me, they're very helpful."
He is also impressed with the local taxi drivers, who drive him to the door of his house and bring in the groceries.
"I get taxi vouchers under the Total Mobility scheme through the Marlborough District Council. It's fantastic. The vouchers pay half the taxi fare which is a big help for longer trips like the supermarket, or if I have an early hospital appointment."
Des says he is getting by without a car but he misses the independence he had when he was driving.
"I liked popping over to Nelson or going to Picton. When my granddaughter came and stayed in the holidays we'd drive to Kaikoura for a trip or have a picnic down the Sounds."
But Des says he doesn't miss the petrol bills or paying for car registration and insurance and the walking he does is doing him good.
"I'm still getting out. I don't want to be stuck inside at home on my own. I go to the Parkinson's exercise class and I've done eight computer courses at SeniorNet. It's good to be out and about and learning."
The Total Mobility voucher scheme depends on eligibility.
Contact the Marlborough District Council, phone 520 7400, email@example.com
St John Health Shuttle provides transport to and from medical appointments.
Service for Blenheim, Ward, Seddon, Wairau Valley and Picton.
Phone 03 578 0797 at least a day in advance.
If you are considering stopping driving, the NZ Transport Agency has more information. nzta.govt.nz/resources/keeping-moving or phone 0800 822 422 for the Keeping Moving booklet.
- The Marlborough Express
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