The combined effects of the massive post-biopsy infection I suffered, plus the horrific reaction to the first hormone treatment I was given, left me severely weakened. Add in the radiotherapy and the less horrific but nevertheless, weakening effects of the alternative hormone therapy I was given and you have a grown man with the physical strength of a toddler. On top of that, I was told I had a heart murmur and blocked arteries. Surely it can’t get any worse.
During all this time I remained employed and my bosses were magnificent. I have received unwavering support from them throughout. Despite my poor physical condition I was determined to go back to work and they waited patiently as I went through successive sick notes, telling them after I submitted each one, “this should be the last. I will be back to work soon”. I was being overly optimistic. Not something I am known for in the workplace.
After six months or so, I was finally feeling up to the challenge and I began a, “phased return to work”. No demands. Just, “do what you feel is right. Don’t overdo it.”, I was told. Well, it was hard to begin with but with the help of my colleagues I got to the point where I was able to work alone. Fantastic! I was improving physically and mentally each day.
Then one day, I arrived home to find a letter from the DVLA on the doormat. They had suspended my HGV entitlement because, according to my recent medical, I was almost blind. I hastily contacted them to correct the obvious mistake, as although my eyesight is no longer perfect, it is quite good apart from reading small-print. Who reads it anyway?
During the ensuing conversation it transpired that my GP had filled in the form incorrectly. He had recorded that I could only read as far as the second line of the chart, whereas I could read as far as the second to bottom line, both with and without glasses. A massive difference with massive consequences. An admission of the mistake by the doctor was not enough to satisfy the authority and I had to go to an optometrist to have an examination and get a certificate to send to the DVLA.
Amazingly, although my HGV entitlement was suspended, my car entitlement was not. It took me some time to process this information because I was of the opinion that, although the perspective may change if you were seeing something from a truck instead of a car, the range of your vision would remain the same. It’s absurd to think that any potential disaster would be limited by the size of one vehicle in what is an infinite number of possible scenarios. A nearly blind person driving a car. What could possibly happen?
I digress. There was nowhere locally where I could get an appointment at short notice so I had to drive from Southampton to Portsmouth for my eye test. All went well, as I expected it would and I returned to Southampton with much improved vision. On paper, at least. I posted the certificate off to the DVLA and relaxed, expecting my licence to be restored forthwith. Aaah. If only.
I waited a couple of days and then phoned the DVLA to enquire about the progress of my licence renewal. I had sent the eyesight certificate by recorded delivery and the tracker indicated that it had indeed been delivered. “It’s still in the post room”, I was informed. A phrase I was to hear a great deal in the coming weeks. “OK”, I replied, “I will call back”.
Although I was annoyed, to say the least, it was not a total disaster and even though I was temporarily banned from driving a truck, I was able to go out as a driver’s mate as the physical side of it was vitally important. Both in the short term, in maintaining and/or improving my current level of fitness and also in my long term rehabilitation. Physically and mentally.
After hearing the phrase, “it’s still in the post room”, a couple of more times, my eyesight certificate finally emerged into the blinding light. “Great”, I said, “I look forward to receiving my licence in due course”.
“I’m afraid not sir”, was the reply. “You have to attend a clinic for further health checks. A letter is on its way to you”. No other information was forthcoming.
Sure enough, within a day or two, I received a letter informing me of the need to take a stress test. A cardio-vascular test to see if I was fit enough to drive a truck. I would be receiving more information plus an appointment in due course.
This was obviously because of my recently diagnosed, slightly faulty, heart valve. The one that I was told was not a problem and to come back in two years time for another check-up. The DVLA have their own medical team and clearly required a second opinion.
Once again, I digress. I received a letter from the Spire hospital in Southampton informing me of two appointments, The second was for a treadmill test to ascertain my level of cardio-vascular fitness. The first was for me to be examined to see if I was healthy enough to take the second test. i.e. a fitness test to see if I was fit enough to take a fitness test. I kid you not. The tests were several days apart and the bill was being paid by the DVLA.
I hastily did some research on the stress test so that I could put in some extra time at the gym to prepare for it. I knew I was making good progress as far as my overall fitness was concerned but I had my doubts about my ability to pass this test as it involved walking very fast for about twelve minutes with the machine on maximum incline, although it started off quite slowly. I thought my calf pain would kick in and that would put an end to it. It looked like it would be an uphill struggle.
I should not have worried. By the time I attended the first appointment ( the pre-test test), I had already managed a full simulation and suffered no reaction in my calf at all. The consultant assessed me as being fit enough to take the test and told me that they would be checking both my heart and my artery issues.
In between the pre-test test and the test, I continued preparation and I managed almost half an hour on the treadmill before there was any significant pain. My confidence grew.
On the day of the test I was a little nervous but when the time came to take the test, I walked it. I was even accused of showing off. I had no doubts though, that if I had not researched and prepared for it, I would have failed the test. My own fitness programme was quite demanding at the time but this would have been a step too far. And too steep.
A couple of days later I phoned the DVLA to check on progress. “It’s still in the post room”, I was told.
“But I was told it would be faxed directly from the hospital”, I replied.
“It was”, came the response, “straight to the post room”.
“Ok, I’ll call back”.
I called back a week or so later and was told that my application was still on hold and that there was a letter on its way to me. By now my licence had expired but I was able to continue driving under Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 subject to my doctor’s approval. Approval which I received from the good doctor, i.e. not the one who did my HGV medical. I was really building up resentment towards him. If he had not messed up my eyesight results, this would have all been over by now. Also, I had started my licence application two months before the expiry date and now it had gone beyond that. It was having quite an effect on me causing me a lot of stress.
I digress. The aforementioned letter arrived and it informed me that my new licence would not be issued until I could provide three successive, acceptable, blood pressure readings. These had to come from appointments on three separate days and had to be under the supervision of a GP. When he had filled in my medical form the doctor was required to provide three previous readings, of which there were many, due to my recent health issues. In spite of almost all of them being within the parameters set by the DVLA, he selected one which was way off the scale and was taken when I suffered the bad reaction to the first hormone drug I was injected with. A one off, never to be repeated anomaly. It was from months previously and had no relevance, yet he included it. Thus they rejected my application, pending acceptable results. More resentment building.
Also at this time, I was about to go on holiday to Gran Canaria. A much needed break after being ill for most of the year plus I was now beginning to show signs of the stress caused by the driving licence problems. Never-ending as they seemed to be. Unfortunately for me, I was unable to get the appointments before going on holiday so I asked them not to do anything with the paperwork until I returned. The DVLA had given four weeks to complete it so it should not be a problem.
However, whilst on holiday, I received a phone call from the surgery to tell me they had received paperwork from the DVLA which they had filled in and were about to return. “Noooooo!! Please don’t do that. Please lock it away until I return from my holiday”. The DVLA wanted new readings and they were providing historic ones dating from before they were requested. More resentment. More stress.
When I returned from my holiday, I managed to get three new blood pressure readings on three separate days and all within the parameters. I asked the nurse to type the results on a separate sheet of paper together with an explanation as what had happened and get the “bad doctor” to sign them. She then attached it to the official paperwork, placed it in an envelope which she sealed and then at my request, gave it to me to post because I couldn’t even trust them to get that right.
A few days later I phoned the DVLA to check on progress. “It’s still in the post room”, they said. “Ok, I’ll call back”. I never did call back because shortly afterwards I received my licence. It arrived just before Christmas. I had started the process in August. Four months earlier.