Over the past couple of years, High Point’s Michael Gould has had to cope with more change than most people will in a lifetime.
But that hasn’t stopped him from looking for solutions to keep a high quality of life.
The 47-year-old had both his legs amputated due to complications with diabetes, losing his left leg in 2016 and his right leg in May of 2017. Gould found himself having to rely on his girlfriend and his father, who has health concerns of his own, to take him anywhere that he needed to go.
When Gould heard about the driving clinic at Novant Health Rehabilitation Center in Winston-Salem, he said he was ready to give it a try.
There, he met Shannon Sheek, a Novant Health occupational therapist who is one of two providers at the clinic certified by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles to work with patients like Gould. Some patients are candidates to drive with hand controls, while others may be dealing with stroke recovery or other issues. The goal is to help qualifying patients get safely back on the road, if possible.
The clinic, located at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, is one of only a handful in the state to offer these types of driving rehabilitation services. While Gould came for multiple visits for his training, Sheek said that depending on the situation many patients need just one or two visits to be evaluated or treated.
“It is super exciting to see folks celebrate the final step and their recovery, and Michael was awesome behind the wheel,” said Sheek. “He was able to negotiate the gas and the brake, which is the hardest part of driving with hand controls … He did an excellent job in listening the input I had for him and applying that on the road.”
While patients are always eased into driving, Gould said he was a little surprised that he was on the road with Sheek by the end of his first visit, tooling around the back roads in Winston-Salem.
These days, Gould has two prosthetic limbs and walks with a cane topped with a fine-looking rabbit head. He smiles when he mentions how many compliments he gets on his cane head and says that someday as an N.C. State Wolfpack fan, he hopes to switch out the rabbit head for a wolf head. He said he has a lot of reasons to be happy now – not only can he drive again, but he also recently got married.
“It’s nice to be able to not have to look at my wife and say, ‘Hey, I need to go to see my dad or I need to go to the store, do you mind dropping what you’re doing and taking me?’ Gould said. “I don’t have to ask anybody if they can take me (anywhere). I’m tickled to death with it.”
With some practice, Gould has grown comfortable again behind the wheel, and that’s made all the difference.
“Driving again, you get that independence back,” Gould said. “That’s the biggest thing when your life is turned upside down by something like losing a leg. The best thing is to get back in a routine as quick as you can.”
If you’ve had a stroke, amputation, spinal cord injury, diabetes, heart condition, neurological impairment or age-related loss of function, you may be a candidate for Novant Health’s driving rehabilitation program. The first step is to contact your healthcare provider to provide a referral.