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‘My Parkinson’s Disease Caused 4 Car Accidents in a Year. Then, I Learned How to Use Uber’

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Gail Potter is a single 70 year old living in Atlanta. She shared her story of taking herself off the road exclusively with WomansWorld.com.

I had not gotten my driver’s license when I turned 16; I began driving at age 22, in 1968. I was living in Dekalb, IL, a new bride. My husband was in graduate school and I was working full-time. We were in the starving stage of life! At some point, he said it was ridiculous that I did not know how to drive and proceeded to teach me. The marriage survived! And I learned to drive. In 1972, we moved to Atlanta because of a job for him. We had two sons.

My mother had undiagnosed Parkinson’s. Her father, my grandfather, did as well. It started for me as a slight tremor in my left hand. When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when I turned 58, my first reaction was instant fear. Then, I wanted to learn and understand so I read everything I could get my hands on.

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In winter 2016, I had four accidents in my car. All four were my fault and I felt were linked to Parkinson’s. Both my sons, one who lives with his wife in London, and the other who lives with his wife and 4-year-old daughter in Atlanta, became seriously concerned about my driving, but neither asked me to stop. I did it on my own.

I’m no longer married and live alone, and I had been using my car for everything. Getting around Atlanta requires a car. So when I decided to take myself off the road and sell my car, I found myself in a very difficult place.

I have many friends close by as well as my family who live 20 minutes away. People have asked me, “Why not just ask them for rides?” It was simply a matter of maintaining my independence. I did not want to ask for help!

I discovered Uber by word of mouth. My main concern before trying it was one thing only: Was it safe for me to be alone in an Uber car?

My first Uber experience alleviated all my fears–it was pleasant. I now use Uber through the nonprofit Common Courtesy practically every day for errands, social engagements, Bible study, and whatever else makes my life normal.

Gail Potter

My Uber rides tend to cost about $8 to $12. With the program through Common Courtesy, I am even given a discount using a grant from The American Parkinson Disease Association in Georgia. I have never had the same driver, but I always chat with them. And my little granddaughter, Chloe, loves to meet them!

I believe my family and friends admire my independence and think that the whole Uber/Common Courtesy experience is good for me. They are thankful for Uber/Common Courtesy because it helps me keep my independence.

Of course I missed driving–at first. However, I do not miss the terrible Atlanta traffic and drivers. And now I encourage my family and friends to use Uber.

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My kids work all week and on the weekend they are busy with what a young family would be doing. They do not need to be stopping their lives to drive me somewhere. There is little extra time for family and friends to drive me around. It seems silly for me to ask them, when I can accomplish this myself. This is not as much an unselfish attitude but a spirit of independence that I operate from. Where there is a will, there is a way! I don’t like anyone deciding for me! Let me, please, make my own decisions!

We all say we don’t want to be a burden. And I certainly do not want that for my children. I am sure I still am because they worry. But I will not ask them to take me to the grocery store. They have their own lives and it is their job to raise their families. And in doing so certainly teaching their children the value of grandparents–but not the burden.

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