EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

June 4, 2014

Northeast Rehab gets people back behind the wheel

Northeast Rehab offers driver assessment and retraining

SALEM — Many people take the right to drive for granted until it’s taken away. That’s where Amanda Plourde comes in.

She is the driving clinic coordinator at Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital, hired in April to expand the facility’s driving assessment and training program.

The program is designed to put people who once drove back behind the wheel.

Plourde is a certified driving instructor in New Hampshire.

But this isn’t typical driver’s education.

Clients work with Plourde for a number of reasons, she said.

“If someone has had a stroke, head injury or brain injury, they have to relearn how to get dressed, go to the store,” Plourde said. “Driving is a huge part of that independence.”

Seniors work with her more frequently than any other demographic, she said.

The people who suddenly lose the ability to drive are often the ones most eager to get behind the wheel again, she said.

“You take driving for granted,” said Goffstown resident Judy Evans, 51. “I never realized how much. You just need it, everywhere.”

Evans has driven for more than 30 years, even driving a school bus at one point.

Last May, she had no way of seeing the road she was about to travel.

“I had a staff infection in my spine, which left my feet with no feeling,” Evans said. “They said it was going to be long-term. With nerves, it can take a long time for them to regenerate.”

Evans’ diagnosis left her unable to control a car’s gas and brake pedals, she said.

“Not only did I lose my independence, but I lost my ability to be a productive person in my household,” she said. “My husband has been having to do most of the dropping me off places to do food shopping or whatever.”

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