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Columnist comments on having his driving privileges suspended due to medical diagnosis

I have reached a point in my multi-faceted medical condition where I no longer am able to drive my car. That privilege now belongs to the other person who lives at our house.Kelly

To recap a bit, since it's more than likely many of you haven't heard about some of my "developments," the decision that I should not be driving came from Dr. David Delman, a Tualatin neurological specialist with expertise in epilepsy, headaches and related brain maladies.

Dr. Delman came into my life after a nine-hour emergency room visit urged by my wife and my primary care doctor, in which a large segment of the Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital team labored to figure out why one Sunday night I performed what has since been described at our house as "your Porky Pig impersonation." Yes, I admit, I uttered a number of Porky's familiar "buh-dip, buh-dip, buh-dip" sounds while trying to tell a story. In fact, I do remember when it happened — I just can't explain why it happened.

Endless x-rays, MRIs and EEGs have led the medical community to conclude I did not have a stroke and probably don't have epilepsy. But that's all I know for sure. They did spot a small dot (about the size of a BB) on my brain. I was immediately put on an anti-seizure drug and have not experienced anything like my aforementioned Porky Pig act.

Now, don't get me wrong — I don't blame Dr. Delman for anything. I like him, and he even said I seemed like a nice guy who he didn't want to punish, but his professional opinion was that I should not be driving, mowing the lawn, cooking on the front burners or swimming.

In cases like this, of course, doctors inform the Department of Motor Vehicles about potential seizure cases like mine — so I have not been operating my 2013 RAV4, which I love to drive. Which means, I might add, that the other person who lives at our house has done all the driving for the last three months — and she's hated every moment of it. This includes every trip to the grocery store, Bi-mart, restaurants, gas stations, friends' houses, thrift stores, doctor appointments and even a several-day vacation at the Oregon coast last week.

And, just in case you might have mistaken me for someone who is not rebellious, I need to confess that in all this time I have continued to cook on the front burners, mow the lawn with my new battery-powered mower (which has an automatic shut-off feature if I should falter in any of my mowing maneuvers) and I have continued to swim three times a week at my local community center because it's the only exercise I get since discovering that I have spinal stenosis and can't walk more than a couple of blocks at a time due to back and hip pain.

This is probably as good a time as any to mention that this brain thing is just the latest chapter in my medical history. I'm in year 22 of fighting prostate cancer, these days with the guidance of an oncologist at OHSU, plus I've established a relationship with a new urologist because of a relatively miraculous artificial sphincter which helps me do battle with the shock and awe of urinary incontinence. Add to these irritating medical issues my back problems, for which I will soon undergo lumbar decompression surgery with the help of my new friends at the Spine and Fracture Specialists team in Beaverton.

So, with all of this baloney whirling around in my little brain, it's kind of peculiar that I am, above all else, frustrated with my inability to drive a car — right? But that's the way it is.

I actually like to drive. It doesn't make me nervous, like it does the other person who lives at our house. But, in all fairness, she also was usually nervous riding in the passenger seat next to me when I was behind the wheel. I now understand that completely, because I too get antsy when she is driving.

Oh, I don't doubt her ability to operate the car, to navigate the streets of Portland or to make the thousands of decisions required in even the shortest hop to the store for milk. Sure, there are things I don't completely approve of — her hesitation to pull into the flow of traffic when there's a small opening, the jerky stops and starts, the fact that she shushes me when I try to give advice about when our turn is approaching. She'll get better at all of those things, and I never get out of the car without telling her she did a good job and thanking her for driving me.

I just don't like being the passenger, you see. It's my job to drive — to plan the best route, get us there in the allotted time, to watch all the mirrors (both sides and rearview), scan the periphery for pedestrians who may want to cross, or kids, dogs and bouncing balls.

As Dustin Hoffman's character, Raymond, said in "Rain Man," I'm a very good driver — and I say that a lot. I say it because it's true. Once, in a column that ran in my Lake Oswego Review days in the early '80s, I declared that a real man (meaning me, of course) could drive all the way to the tip of South America without stopping for anything but gas and snacks.

I fully expect to get my driving privileges back eventually. My first three-month MRI was this week and I'm pretty sure that the gobbledy-gook in the report about the image of my brain was saying (between the multi-syllable medical jargon) was that there was no significant change from the original pictures that got this whole thing started. Sooner or later, I expect Dr. Delman to decide I'm OK to drive. Both my wife and I will be ecstatic to hear that news, I'm sure, but you can rest assured that I will appreciate it the most.

It is my job to be the driver. We now know that she is capable of filling in when necessary. But the true responsibility is mine.

Mikel Kelly retired from the newspaper industry in 2015


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