Egypt Lundy approached learning to drive the same way she approached getting to know other patients at Shepherd Center – slowly at first, but then with exuberance.
Nineteen-year-old Egypt Lundy spent six months in Shepherd Center’s Adolescent Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program in early 2022 after sustaining a spinal cord injury (SCI) in a car crash. When she arrived, she was quiet and kept to herself. However, after her first month, she says she started talking to some of the other teens…and didn’t stop.
“After that, they couldn't get me to shut up,” she laughs. “They couldn’t get me to stop talking, and they couldn't get me to stop going behind the desks, talking to the nurses, calling everybody code names.”
Egypt made the rounds of the hospital, occasionally stopping into CEO Sarah Morrison’s office for a chat. She especially loved Fridays at Shepherd because the adolescents went on outings or had group activities.
“Either way, everybody’s going to be together, so every Friday was fun,” she recalls.
Egypt was discharged last summer, and this June, she returned to Shepherd from her home in Montezuma, Georgia, to practice for what’s considered a major milestone by many teens —her driver’s license test.
“It means a lot. It means I don’t have to wait on anybody; I can be free to do things,” Egypt explains.
Egypt, who uses a wheelchair, took advantage of Shepherd’s adaptive driving services to learn how to drive a car using hand controls. Occupational therapist and certified driving educator Lakisha Gray, MSOT, OTR/L, CDRS, works with clients to inform them of transportation options, evaluate their needs, and provide instruction and training on using adaptive equipment.
Adaptive driving services aren’t limited to Shepherd patients. They are available to anyone in the community who needs to be evaluated for safe driving, including people with spinal cord or brain injuries, as well as those who have cognitive, visual, or physical disabilities, or concerns related to aging.
After driving evaluations and training, the adaptive driving services team completes fittings.
“If people need equipment in their vehicles, we'll meet them at an
equipment installer, make sure all the equipment is in the right place, and make any adjustments. Then we'll complete another training in their vehicle at that time,” Gray explains.
Many clients are re-learning how to drive, but it was Egypt’s first time getting a license. Gray says Egypt learned quickly.
“She was anticipating that it would be a lot harder than it was,” Gray explains. “But once we practiced, she got more confident. She went from, ‘I’m just going to be in the house even though I can drive,’ to, ‘Now I'm going to go everywhere!’”
Egypt practiced with Gray every day for a week, beginning in the Shepherd parking deck and then expanding into nearby neighborhoods and around Atlanta.
“She took me to different places during the week, learning how to yield, how to merge into traffic, when to brake, and when not to. I was nervous all week until the day of my driving test. But Lakisha walked me through the steps of what to do and what not to do, and that Friday morning, I took my driving test.”
For Egypt, it turned out to be another fun Friday. She passed the test and got her driver’s license. And that’s not the only significant milestone Egypt has to celebrate this summer – she also graduated from high school in May and is off to college this month.
For more information on Shepherd’s adaptive driving services, visit shepherd.org/driving.
Written by Ruth Underwood
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Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.