Restoring Independence: Emily’s Journey to Driving Again

Jul 14 2023

Emily Alvarez’s life took an unexpected turn when tragedy struck during her travels back to college.

While driving, she found herself in a horrifying car accident caused by a vehicle speeding at 110 miles per hour. The collision was devastating, and the impact could have been fatal. However, thanks to Emily’s decision to always wear her seatbelt, she emerged as the sole survivor.  

In the aftermath of the accident, Emily faced numerous injuries. Two severe brain bleeds impacted the areas responsible for memory and language, while a loss of 40 percent of her peripheral vision made driving impossible. Suddenly, a once simple act of independence became a distant memory.

“I truly miss the freedom of being behind the wheel, whether it’s running errands or spending time with my friends,” Emily shares. “It’s incredibly challenging to rely on others for every little thing.”

Fortunately, Emily found a source of hope and support at Mercy Health — Oregon Outpatient Rehabilitation and Therapy. Through their “On the Road Again” program, she began her journey to recovery and regaining her independence.

One aspect of Emily’s rehabilitation journey was the driving simulator.

With the help of skilled instructors, she gradually learned to navigate the virtual roads, building confidence and reacquainting herself with the skills necessary for driving.

“At first, I would often find myself crashing the virtual vehicle, leading to frustration and anger,” Emily recalls. “But my instructor remained calm and supportive throughout the process, helping me overcome those challenges.”

Through her determination and the guidance of the rehabilitation team, Emily made significant progress. Each session on the driving simulator brought her closer to her goal of driving again.

“I am so grateful for the driving simulator that can help me drive again one day,” Emily shares. “The idea of being able to drive, finish school and hang out with my friends is such a dream.”

Emily’s determination and progress serve as a reminder that no matter how daunting the obstacles may seem, with the right support and resources, it’s possible to overcome anything.

Learn more about the rehabilitation and physical therapy services we provide at Mercy Health.

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