At 44 years old, Richard Gopez had an active life with his family — hiking, attending football games, going to the beach and taking trips to Disneyland. He never thought he would have a stroke.
But, in the summer of 2015, a stroke left Gopez paralyzed on the left side. He suffered from memory loss, and his vision and speech were impaired.
“The stroke was hard for me. I wasn’t the person that relied on people to do things; I was the person people relied on,” Gopez says.
After two weeks at Sharp Memorial Hospital, Gopez was discharged to Sharp Allison deRose Rehabilitation Center. His recovery included physical, speech and occupational therapy.
After six months, Gopez was able to strengthen his left side, regain use of his legs and improve his speech.
He was determined to get back to his day-to-day activities — including driving. His ophthalmologist and primary care physician gave him approval to enroll in the Adapted Driving Program offered by Sharp Rehabilitation Services.
The program helps patients explore their options for driving and prepares them for the final step, which includes behind-the-wheel, vision and written tests with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
The driving program is a two-part process. The first part is a clinical assessment of the driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. Vision perception, reaction time, cognition and strength are all evaluated.
The second part of the process includes a behind-the-wheel component to determine the person’s driving strengths and weaknesses. After both parts are complete, a plan is put into action. The plan may include lessons, equipment or looking at alternative transportation options.
“We customize everyone’s program and their equipment to their specific needs,” says occupational therapist Laura Nelson, MS, OTR/L. “Our job is to determine how to get or keep them on the road safely.”
Within a month of beginning the program, Gopez received approval from the DMV to resume driving.
“I was ecstatic. Since the stroke, I have several appointments each week. Now I can drive myself and I don’t have to rely on my family,” Gopez says.
Gopez still has physical and occupational therapy, but feels the driving program has been an integral part of his recovery and continued improvements in his abilities.
“I am really thankful for the rehabilitation program at Sharp, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now without them,” Gopez says.
Learn more about the Adaptive Driving Program from Sharp Rehabilitation Services.