Epilepsy Talk

Epilepsy and Driving (A Small Rant) | March 16, 2014

It’s been three months since I’ve been “benched”. With three more months (hopefully) until my driver’s license is restored.

The authorities said, if I didn’t “surrender” my license by XYZ date (with the neuro and cardiologist’s report) a sheriff was going to show up at my front door and haul me away!

So, now, not only do I have epilepsy, I’m a prospective CRIMINAL with epilepsy.

Now, if I had a pacemaker, do you think they’d take my license away? Or cancer, diabetes, etc?

If I had a car accident, would they revoke my license? Not likely.

But nooooo. I have epilepsy, so I must be punished. Because I drove my car into the back of my garage wall.

Did I hurt or endanger anything (other than my garage)? Well, I did hurt myself, when the airbag almost crushed me.

Will 6 months without a driver’s license suddenly make me a “safe” driver?

Right now I feel like I’m under “house arrest”.

Not going anywhere. Even the dreaded grocery store. Or the pharmacy to pick up my meds. (I would suggest mail order drugs, if you find yourself in the same bind.)

And even when I qualify to have my license returned, it will probably take our blessed bureaucracy about 6 weeks to get it back to me.

One good pieced of news. I’ve served half of my term from when the “incident” occurred and I was reported.

I guess that makes me only half a criminal. And the sheriff hasn’t come knocking on my door. Yet.

To say I’m furious is an understatement.

How many of you have been in the same situation? And how do YOU feel?

To see each state’s driving regulations, click below:

http://www.dmv.org/suspended-license.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epilepsy_and_driving#United_States

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61 Comments »

  1. In the UK, if you have a seizure during the day you lose your license for a year, a nocturnal seizure it is taken for 3. When I was 24 I passed my driving test, 7 years after all my friends because it took that long for me to be seizure free for that year. Even then they only give you a 3 year license, which they ask you to re-apply for at 2years 10 months. I had my license for 2 years and 10 months, I had just re-applied before I had a seizure and informed the authorities about it. I was sent a new license and a letter requesting its return the same day.

    I feel your pain of being trapped. However public transport is great here and I just use that. I am not tired to a car.

    Like

    Comment by Chris — March 16, 2014 @ 11:19 AM

    • I don’t think I’ll be moving to the UK, public transportation or not. You’ve got some stringent laws.

      Although I’m out here in the relative boonies with little public transportation (the US — except for the cities — it pretty famous for that), I’m pretty much whimpering compared to you!

      I guess you don’t really know how good you’ve got it, until it’s gone.

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 16, 2014 @ 5:32 PM

      • UK, being too small to accommodate too many cars, it’s deliberately made too difficult & too expensive to drive a car for as many residents as possible, NOT just Epileptic patients.
        Therefore, nearly most residents depend on public transportation, again, NOT just epileptic patients.

        Like

        Comment by Gerrie — March 16, 2014 @ 8:33 PM

    • I have also lost my licence for a year on quite a few occasions. Although I’m not as lucky as Chris, yes the local authority gave me a bus pass, but living in a rural area we don’t have many busses ! I do feel rather upset as a friend who went into a diabetic coma is still allowed to drive

      Like

      Comment by Ally — March 17, 2014 @ 6:54 AM

      • What do you have to do to get to the bus station? It must be quite the trudge.

        And it’s kind of ironic (but not funny) that with diabetes it’s just ducky to drive.

        No restraints and no recriminations.

        Yet your friend suffered a diabetic coma and could have killed everyone in sight.

        Like

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 17, 2014 @ 11:33 AM

  2. How do I feel when this happens to me? Frustrated, dependent, “out of the mainstream of life,” even angry. But…I do understand. Still, I agree with you when you say, “Will six months without a driver’s license suddenly make me a better driver?” During these six-month hiatuses, as I call them, I do not even get behind the wheel of the car. There’s too much at stake. I am very compliant. I once had six weeks in (to my “term”) when another seizure hit. I said to my doctor, “Well, at least six weeks are over,” to which he replied, “No, you have to start all over again.” BIG FRUSTRATION. It was really difficult, when I was still teaching, to not be able to drive for six months. But I found out who my friends were. One colleague took it upon herself to make a chart for people to pick me up in the morning to drive me to school and others to drive me home in the afternoon. I was so touched by her kindness that I cried. My husband has always taken me everywhere I needed or wanted to go. So I comply, because having an accident and hurting someone else or myself just isn’t worth it. That said, I still feel very put out.

    Like

    Comment by Maggie — March 16, 2014 @ 12:30 PM

    • Angry? Frustrated? Sad? You bet.

      My husband is basically disabled with waist to toes neuropathy, so he’s out of the picture.

      And because I’m in the “boonies,” my friends are scattered.

      But I do have one very constant and kind neighbor who takes me grocery shopping every week.

      And other friends run errands or I make out lists and they get the stuff to me.

      But it’s so humbling to have to ask people to take you places or do things for me.

      So, I’ve passed on the dentist, eye doctor, any place that’s more than 30 minutes away.

      Because for most friends, it’s an odyssey — schlepping the distance here…taking me where I need to go…driving me home…and then going home themselves. It becomes an all-day event!

      But, happily, I work at home, so I don’t have that to deal with…

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 16, 2014 @ 5:43 PM

  3. With all the alcohol & negligence induced car-accidents, seizure provoked car accidents seem to get “special treatment”.
    What a privilege?

    How is for “stroke” provoked car accident?
    I’ positively sure, there’s a whole lot of understanding & sympathy for the “unfortunate” predicament.

    I guess, we are the lucky ones to be honored with the highest privilege society has to offer, CRIMINALIZE our medical predicament & anything else.
    Feeling “hostage” in free world?
    That’s under statement.

    I’ve not drove a car in 10 years, as soon as my Neurologist “reported” my Epilepsy to the State & the State AUTOMATICALLY “suspended” my license “until further notice”. 🙂
    Thanks God, the Sheriff is NOT coming to knock my door.
    Fortunately, I’ve learned to live without driving, moving next to bus & train station, sometimes taking three buses to Doctors appointment or pharmacy to pick up DILANTIN, when ever the pharmacy switches my prescription to “Generic”, because my Insurance refuses to pay for “Dilantin” due to “new insurance formulary does NOT include Dilantin, therefore, replaced with Generic”.

    Epilepsy may NOT qualify for drama but the aftermath continues to be endless drama.
    Thanks God, we are NOT in medieval times, we would have lynched for being “possessed by demons”.

    Sadly, we haven’t gone too far from medieval times, either.

    Like

    Comment by Gerrie — March 16, 2014 @ 2:15 PM

    • Gerry, I always LOVE your replies, but this is one of the best. Funny, but not so funny.

      You certainly hit the nail on the head — as usual.

      Fortunately neither of us had gotten acquainted with the Sheriff — yet.

      But have you considered getting your meds by mail order? Cause it sure sounds like you’re going through hell, just to get a common drug.

      And yes, let’s all be grateful that it’s past lynching season!

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 16, 2014 @ 5:50 PM

      • Thanks Phyllis,
        I love your articles so much, I’ve come to take them for therapeutic remedy for my own personal epileptic ordeals.
        In fact, I learned more about Epilepsy from your articles than I learned from my Neurologists, Ambulance EMT or Hospitals.
        Thanks to your time & information, running this site, I survived & coped with Epilepsy.

        I guess, sarcastic reaction to the whole dramatic equation

        Like

        Comment by Gerrie — March 16, 2014 @ 9:12 PM

      • Sarcastic reaction to the whole ordeal seems temporary relief to the endless drama.
        OH YEAL,,, The post office use to deliver my prescriptions, until the pharmacy ended up switching the medication to “Generic”, causing me to have two complusive grand mal seizures, ending me handcuffed to ER Hospital bed for a week.
        Confronting the pharmacy with “unauthorized” prescription replacement,,, “Sir, Your insurance policy has changed in the new year, removing “DILANTIN” from the “insurance formulary”.
        Finally, after endless calls to the Insurance Company, the same “DILANTIN”, that has stabilized my seizures ended up “re-approved & restored to just the end of this year”. 🙂
        Therefore, I can’t just wait for the mailman to deliver the right prescription.
        I got to go to the pharmacy & pick up the RIGHT Prescription, before the pharmacy mail another GENERIC, to only end up having another grand mal seizure.

        Oh Yeah Phyllis,,,
        Surviving Epilepsy is coping with the “health industry”.

        Like

        Comment by Gerrie — March 16, 2014 @ 9:51 PM

  4. I was given the go ahead to get my licence back in november after 14 months, I sent the paperwork and still don’t have my licence back! I did get another form arrive on friday to tell them about my MS? I hate not driving as there are no buses where I live so I just can’t go anywhere not in hobbling distance. The worst part is being treated like an idiot, I would never drive if feeling less than 100% like you said people with other conditions don’t have to go through this.

    Like

    Comment by mickcgorman — March 16, 2014 @ 5:38 PM

  5. Yup, just like I feel. Helpless and hopeless.

    I hate it.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 16, 2014 @ 5:53 PM

  6. We understand your problem. Our daughter had intractable epilepsy for 52 years until she passed. She had the fight once with the Department of Motor Motor Vehicles. We agree that there is some injustice in the way the laws are written and administered with regard to this disability. Where is our national voice?

    We enjoy your blog. Thanks.

    Dr. Thomas P. Davies

    Check out website in honor of our daughter:

    http://www.ninascourage.org You can sigh up for our monthly newsletter there also. Here is the URL for the March issue. http://ymlp.com/z6LGGs

    Like

    Comment by Thomas P. Davies — March 16, 2014 @ 6:21 PM

  7. It is awful how people diagnosed with epilepsy are treated. I feel like as long as someone is following their doctors instructions and taking their meds, they should be fine. I worry that my 10 year daughter will be discriminated against when she tries to get her license. She is very sharp and I think she would drive better than the kids that are trying to text and drive. No other medical condition receives so much discrimination. It seems very unfair. Hope the rest of your time passes quickly, Phyllis. I really enjoy reading your posts.

    Like

    Comment by Trish L — March 16, 2014 @ 10:54 PM

  8. Dear Dr. Thomas,

    I looked at both links to your website. Such as brave act to turn your grief into something positive and productive.

    A living testimonial to how much you must have loved Nina. And a source of help to others.

    I congratulate you on your courage and compassion.

    As for Motor Vehicles, remember, we have an “orphan disease.”

    There’s no lobby, no spending, no voices. And NO MONEY.

    That about sums it up to me.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 17, 2014 @ 11:02 AM

  9. Gerrie how can they take an ages old original AED off the formulary? I was on Dilantin as far back as 1966.

    (Now you know how ancient I am!)

    That’s totally ridiculous and unacceptable.

    I would go directly to the US distributor and complain. Let THEM put their money muscle behind the exclusion.

    Their US distributor is:
    Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories, Ltd.
    1150 Elijah McCoy Drive, Detroit, MI 48202
    (Code?) ISS. 12/2009 PJPI0071A

    The actual manufacturer is:
    Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
    Acme Plaza, Andheri-Kurla Road,
    Andheri (East), Mumbai-400 059, India.

    http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=c40f66cc-6f4a-4b29-84ba-d265e4848735#nlm34069-5

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 17, 2014 @ 11:23 AM

    • Phyllis,
      Thanks for your heroic devotion to our ordeals, you are the ONLY one on our side, while the establishments keep making our medical difficulty HARDER than already is.

      Thanks to two complex grand mal seizures just two weeks apart & hospital emergency room TORMENT, I’ve come to discover, since January 2013, new Insurance company “CONTRACTING TO MANAGE” the same health coverage I had for decades, SUBSTITUTING the very prescription drugs that controlled & stabilized my seizures for years.

      To the credit of earnest Pharmacist, I found out, the whole idea of “prescription substitution” was for financial gains of the new insurance contractor, (at the expense of my grand mal seizures?)

      Having learned hard lessons, I’m still fighting the new insurance contractor to carry on the same decades old health coverage & prescription plan, while the insurance contractor is THREATENING me with penalty for refusing to take the GENERIC SUBSTITUTION.

      In fact, in today’s letter & endless phone calls, the insurance contractor is threatening me to be “DISENROLLED BY 4/30/14” from the health coverage I subscribed for decades.

      Therefore, thank you for support & information, NOW, I can see I got other options instead of being forced to switch prescription & risk another seizure.
      Again, your deep understanding of our ordeals & sharing your deep experience saved me from a whole lot run around.

      Like

      Comment by Gerrie — March 19, 2014 @ 5:30 AM

  10. In my case, I self-reported to my neurologist, that I believed I was having absence seizures, and was concerned about my medication levels. She made it out as though it was her duty to report me to the DMV, and within a matter of a week, I had received notice that my license was suspended. Why is it when they are doing something punitive, or asking for money, the DMV is quick about it, but all else is done on a geological time scale? I spent a year, working with my doctor, trying to adjust medication levels to her satisfaction, before she would sign off for me to even ask the DMV to restore my ability to drive myself. Then, I had to retake the written test. It was probably three weeks after that before I received my new license in the mail. Imagine that in the picture I look annoyed- After spending 3.5 hours at the DMV. While housebound, I made good use of the online refill/mail to my home option for my medications, and also I am fortunate that I live in an area where groceries can be purchased online, and delivered to my home. Many of the trips for Xmas shopping, and whatnot, I simply did not do, because having to ask others to take you everywhere, like a child, makes you feel like a burden and is embarrassing. If I could not walk to and from the store, and carry that item home on foot, I did without it.

    Like

    Comment by Jennifer Barrington — March 17, 2014 @ 2:37 PM

    • OMG! You had to take the written test again? And then wait ANOTHER three weeks to get your license back?

      I’m doomed.

      And I thought I was half way through my penance. 😦

      As for your neuro reporting you to DMV, I’ve been told by various other doctors (not neuros) that it’s the law. At least here in PA.

      For Christmas, I ordered almost everything from Amazon. (We have “Amazon Prime,” so shipping for most things is free.)

      My friend took me to TJ MAXX for wrap (great gift wrap, high quality and about half the price of card shops, etc.)

      The only dilemma was the ribbon. Convinced a sewing friend to take me to the fabric store next time she went and I got all kinds of bulk ribbon for wrapping.

      So, I figured out Christmas, now if only I could figure out stuff like haircuts. (In desperation, I cut my own hair because I just couldn’t stand it anymore. The one good thing is that at least hair grows. However right now, I look pretty awful!)

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 17, 2014 @ 3:48 PM

    • Some states DO require mandatory reporting of seizures by doctors. Not all thankfully.

      Like

      Comment by Travis — March 24, 2014 @ 9:29 PM

  11. Geez, Phylis, if you lived in one of the 3 month states you would be done. Time for a move or have a residence in 2 states? 🙂 Just kidding. I’m lucky i live in CA, when i had my accident because of a seizure, i only had my drivers license gone for 3 months. Luckily the doc said i was in good shape to drive, since back then i stopped taking meds for 3 yrs and in order to drive i had to agree to take them religiously. So now i take them religiously. Those 3 months were horrible, talk about isolation, abandonment, alienation. I paid a friend who was unemployed at the time nicely to be my chauffeur.

    Like

    Comment by Zolt — March 17, 2014 @ 3:05 PM

    • I’m jealous. But the chauffeur idea was brilliant. Definitely a win-win.

      Why do you always come up with such smart solutions? 🙂

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 17, 2014 @ 3:51 PM

      • Oh no! I thought you were getting it back. Ughh it is so frustrating. Haha I love how it says”surrender” your license. They DO make you feel like you just got a d.u.I. or something. It makes having seizures worst from going from independent to feeling isolated and not wanting to go anywhere anymore. I was told that I have to re take the written test and the driving test!!! All those years of being accident free and a cautious driver went right out the window and like Gerrie said there’s people that drive drunk and under influences that have an easier time getting the license back. So irritateing!

        Like

        Comment by Amy — March 18, 2014 @ 11:29 PM

      • And I too have been doing all internet shopping. Drugstore.com has been my go to lately lol. I did have this conversation with a family member though and she suggested looking in the paper for drivers, I mean not all the time but once in awhile to take a day to treat yourself and sometimes they aren’t that much??? Just an idea.

        Like

        Comment by Amy — March 18, 2014 @ 11:35 PM

  12. That’s what Zolt did. He paid a friend who was unemployed at the time to be his chauffeur.

    So it was a win-win.

    Maybe you should check the college (if you have one locally) or Craig’s List?

    But, I agree, using a car service is the best bet. At least you know their credentials. And it would be good for you to get out and get some enjoyable — and necessary — stuff.

    It would do you a world of good to get a little “outting”!

    Take it from one who knows. I had lunch with a friend yesterday and then she took me to do some errands.

    Sigh. It was wonderful. 🙂

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 19, 2014 @ 11:20 AM

  13. In my 20’s I was told I couldn’t drive until seizures were under control. I’m from Tennessee and you must be seizure free for 6months at least. I didn’t drive for 15years. Come May 16th 2013, I drove again♥♥♥ It was SO great to be free! A few months later, I was unable to drive…again. Depression hits. I have a VNS, and taking depakote er, Carbatrol and klonipin. My neurologist is stumped. I have panic/anxiety attacks everyday. Not sure if I’m seizing. Stressed. You name it. Now I have therapist appointments set up. We’ll see what they say. I’m 36 yrs old and had hereditary epilepsy my whole life. NOT driving… IS a depressing confined life. And here I am…supposed to be this regions epilepsy ambassador and on the board of the Epilepsy Foundation. So MANY ideas to help with epilepsy yet depression stopped me in my tracks. Please keep me in your prayers:)

    Like

    Comment by Heather Webb — March 20, 2014 @ 6:53 PM

  14. Heather, Why didn’t you drive for all that time? (I must admit that after I wrapped my mother’s car around a cement pillar, I gave her a check for the repairs and then didn’t drive for 10 years. I’m was petrified!)

    In my humble opinion, you should see a psychiatrist. I take Effexor, and Busperone (plus Xanax if I really need it) with my Lamictal and Klonopin. And the anti-depressants have really made a huge difference.

    One study stated that 80% of the patients with epilepsy were also diagnosed as having a depressive disorder.

    Upwards of 60% of these individuals had a history of significant episodes of depression. And 10-32% experience symptoms of anxiety. Not too reassuring, is it?

    So, instead of mouring for your “inability” to do the important work you do to help others, help yourself first.

    You know, if you can’t help yourself, you can’t help others. (Sorry for the cliche.)

    I have the utmost faith in you, Heather. All you need is the right mix of meds.

    (Take it from my experience. I tried to kill myself a few years ago. And the outcome was Epilepsy Talk!)

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 21, 2014 @ 10:48 AM

  15. Oh yah. First time I lost my license I was TICKED OFF that the county hospital reported me having a seizure to the state. This is not required in my state, and in fact that could be considered a breach of confidentiality by the doctor who reported it. Thankfully up here the state just sent out a generic letter saying “your license has been suspended on DATE because of [blah blah blah]. I just had to get a doc to approve, have him send it into state and license is valid again.

    After not driving for 17 years I had ot get the suspension lifted by a doctors letter to state. I had already passed the written test at the DMV station, but was given a slip NOT a permit because of that holdup. Went in a few days later and was issued the permit. Since it had been so long I had to do a road test to get the license reinstated, but that was easy.

    I know how hard it can be being I grew up in the sticks with NO transit system what so ever. Out there I became very accustomed to using a bicycle.

    I do have a problem with the “accident” in this posting. If an accident occurred on PRIVATE PROPERTY the notification of police shouldn’t have happened in my opinion. If it happened on the roads I could understand.

    Like

    Comment by Travis — March 24, 2014 @ 9:26 PM

  16. Well in PA, forget about confidentiality. It’s the law for a doc to report “seizure activity” to Motor Vehicles.

    Why weren’t you driving for 17 years? What caused your fiasco?

    As for biking, forget it. I’m the one who not only falls down the stairs, but I have the rare talent of falling UP the stairs.

    So balance and I are not close friends. In fact, I have a knee brace on right now. Pathetic.

    As for the accident. Why should anybody care? Except the back of my garage wall!

    Sigh…

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 24, 2014 @ 11:05 PM

    • Seizures were uncontrolled for that time. It wasn’t until after the brain surgery two years ago that I became seizure free again.

      Before I finished high school the doc dropped me down to just Tegretol. When the seizures came back (shortly later) it was attempts with adding Depakote, Dilantin.. still no control. So Driving became something I could not do. Even on Teg Topa and (thinking) Keppra I would have one every 3 months!!! MN at the time was 6 months seizure free (it’s now 90 days) to drive. I may only drive 1 or 2 times a week, but it’s nice being able to!!! Family doesn’t have to make a 25 min drive up here just to go to the cabin in the summer.

      Like

      Comment by Travis — March 28, 2014 @ 12:10 AM

  17. I’m not the most popular girl on the block. My husband has neuralgia, so his driving is limited.

    Everything is a “favor”. Grocery shopping, drug store and just the basics. I tried to cut my own hair and it was a disaster!

    But I do have friends who help me out with the more “glamorous” chores. And LUNCH. 🙂

    I guess the only bright star on your horizon is your curtailed “sentence”.

    GOOD LUCK Travis!

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 28, 2014 @ 11:45 AM

  18. it stinks not to have a license but what if you had a seizure and could endanger others its not worth the risk I have been without 1 for a while but I don’t know how id live with it if I had a seizure and hurt my kids and another family. Id much rather not drive than the worse case scenero happen.

    Like

    Comment by cheergirl04 — April 17, 2014 @ 4:02 PM

  19. You are, of course, completely RIGHT. But the things is that my seizures are controlled and I ran into the back of the garage wall!

    That’s why I’m so annoyed. Even though you have a very good point.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 17, 2014 @ 5:46 PM

  20. It sucks. I had a seizure in my kitchen in April. Now, cause of that, I can’t drive for 6 months. In October I can get my neuro to sign the forms n get me my license back. Till then, I live in the country, so I’m stuck in my house. No buses, no taxi’s, can only beg for rides so much. If they don’t want us to drive, fine, get us a alternate means to get around then. Taking our license to make sure we are “safe” to drive is only hurting us worse…especially when, like in my state, they then wash their hands of ya. Good luck getting around to doc appts n getting your scripts the next 6 months…smh…

    Like

    Comment by Tom — June 30, 2015 @ 6:27 PM

    • Tom, you’ll have to learn as I did, to reach out to friends and neighbors. It’s a humbling experience that at first I hated, but then I realized I had no choice.

      You’d be surprised by how many people want to help you, if you ask. The hard part is asking.

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 30, 2015 @ 7:23 PM

  21. heres something i saw on the news in Sacramento , i even called my DMV in my area , just asked a simple question :” i have no warnings on my seizures , i could , be talking to someone , be watching tv / movie or just walking , & out of no where have a seizure.. gran-mal seizures too , & asked what if i drove , he asked me when my last seizure was told him 5 yrs , { prior was on different meds mysoline & dilantin , } now on keppra , he told me , if i wanted to drive , must get a 3 page letter , have the dr sign it , but knowing many drs these days many dont want to pay court cost nor loose their medical insurance {mal practice insurance } cost , to pay out , .. then , if we hurt someone , / or kill we would have to pay for funeral cost , hospital stays , some of us are on disability or SSI /D, which doesnt pay much , then if we have a home car , we would have to give it to them .. even his worked told the courts on , his seizures at work .. !!!, now he has to served 18 yrs , for false statements , made ..

    but this guy , lied to his dr , stating he never had seizures , to keep on driving { read the court paperwork , } even , when , someone has seizures , you have to start all over , with paperwork , & whole 9 yrds .. drs visits test ,

    DAVIS,CA (CBS13) — Was it a tragic accident or murder?
    That’s the question a Yolo County jury had to answer after a deadly crash prosecutors say was caused by a seizure.
    The highly unusual case was centered around not just epilepsy, but around the choices the driver made that day—a day that changed the course of two families forever.
    Darlene Morales visited her high-school sweetheart in the hospital every day. The day after her 85th birthday, she was driving home with the hospital. A man she never met, Armando Gonzalez, was headed home too. his wife, Isabel, was days away from delivering their first child.
    “He had called me to let me know he was gonna come home early,” Isabel said.
    The February 2014 crash on a Davis street was violent, leaving Darlene’s car crunched against a tree. She was pinned in the car in excruciating pain for what must have seemed to her like forever.
    Her son, Bob, and his wife Lucia rushed to the hospital.
    “Getting to the hospital and having the doctors tell you, you just probably need to let her go, is very painful,” Bob said.
    “And we went in with our 21-year-old son and he saw his grandmother laying on the table,” Lucia said. “I can’t even tell you how many times you just re-live that memory.”
    It’s an incredibly painful memory that never fades.
    Darlene’s family thought at first it was a tragic accident, until Armando Gonzalez ended up in handcuffs.
    “He called me and said, ‘They’re gonna arrest me,’” she said.
    It wasn’t alcohol or drugs that prosecutors say caused the deadly crash. They say Armando had a seizure. He has lifelong epilepsy.
    With no prior criminal record, Gonzalez is now a convicted murderer. A Yolo County jury found him guilty of second-degree murder and gross vehicular manslaughter.
    “It was a shock to me because I didn’t feel like he was doing anything out of the law,” Isabel said.
    For the first time, she’s speaking publicly about the verdict she believes is an injustice.
    “I wanted the public to know who my husband is. He’s not a criminal. He’s a man with a medical condition,” she said.
    Her husband carefully took medication to manage his epilepsy, she said. He was legally licensed to drive.
    In a medical evaluation submitted to the Department of Motor Vehicles in August of 2010 obtained by CBS13, his doctors said his condition was stable, describing him as a “low driving risk.”
    Isabel gave birth when Armando was already behind bars. He’s never held his son, Tony, who may graduate high school before his father is released.
    Is the 18-year sentence fair? Amanda Zambor with the Yolo County District Attorney’s office says without a doubt, justice was served.
    “It wasn’t a matter of if it would happen, it’s a matter of when,” she said.
    In fact, prosecutors say Armando had at least four prior seizure-related crashes.
    The first was in 2002. In 2004, they say he hit a brick wall and nearly died. Another seizure happened in 2010 where he hit a parked car, and in 2011, prosecutors say it happened again and he ran a stop sign and hit a car.
    Prosecutors say had Armando been honest about his condition, he may not have had a license in the first place. They say he lied to doctors about seizures that were actually much more frequent than he let on.
    “And DMV ultimately based on those lies gave him his license back,” she said.
    Armando’s co-workers testified at the trial that he showed signs of having mini-seizures the day of the crash before he got in the car to drive home. Prosecutors say the legal term is “implied malice.” In layman’s terms, he was well aware of the risks, but made the choice to drive anyway. That’s why he was charged with second-degree murder.
    “It’s not his choice to have epilepsy obviously, but he knew the dangers. He lied to maintain his license, and he chose to drive anyways knowing how dangerous it was to everyone else on the road,” Zambor said.
    Investigators say Armando slammed into Darlene at 80 mph on a residential street.
    “He was playing Russian roulette,” Lucia Morales said. “It’s like Bob’s mom—my mother-in-law—is the one that got the bullet, not your mom, not your sister, not somebody else’s brother.t could’ve been anybody.”
    The sympathy Darlene’s family first felt for Armando turned to anger.
    “All of a sudden, I don’t feel for him anymore. He made choices and he made choices over and over again,” Bob said.
    Isabel disputes the district attorney’s account, saying her husband never lied to his doctors or the DMV, and had every right to be on the road that day.
    We asked her, with his past seizures and accidents, should he really have been drive.
    “The doctor says as long as he goes three months without a seizure he could drive,” she said, adding it had been more than three months.
    She believes Armando is being punished for a seizure he had no way of knowing was coming, held accountable for a condition the jury didn’t fully understand.
    “He is my hero and I’m proud of him and I love him,” she said.
    Prosecutors say it wasn’t about epilepsy, a condition people responsibly drive with every day. They told the jury Armando knew his seizure triggers were there, knew he’d suffered mini-seizures, and drove anyway, putting everyone on the road that day in danger.
    The trial took two weeks. The jury deliberated less than a day before returning its guilty verdict.
    “Reckless disregard for anyone on the street but him,” Lucia said. “It makes me—it makes me so angry.”
    Armando was sentenced to 18 years and 8 months to live in prison. He was also convicted of perjury for lying the DMV. He’s planning an appeal. In our interview, his wife apologized to Darlene’s family.
    Meanwhile, Darlene’s family held a joint memorial for her and her husband. He died just weeks after his wife of six decades was killed in the crash.

    Like

    Comment by Cathy Flowers — June 30, 2015 @ 6:51 PM

  22. Cathy, I’ve heard the story and I think I feel the same way that you do.

    The decision to drive was not made of malice but ignorance or avoidance of the law. And of regard for others.

    The fact that Armando had at least four prior seizure-related crashes, speaks for itself.

    The decision to drive, whether your seizures are controlled or not, is a tricky one.

    Since the time I drove into the garage wall and finally got my license back (8 moths later), I’ve been reluctant to drive.

    Going to the supermarket is one thing. Venturing onto an area where someone can be seriously hurt is another.

    The lesson I learned is to drive when necessary and not when I feel shaky or the possibility of an oncoming aura.

    The key word here is judgement. Not punishment.

    I was the lucky one. I only trashed the garage wall. Not another person’s life.

    But the treatment I received by the authorities was criminal.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 30, 2015 @ 7:40 PM

    • Ïhttp://www.davisvanguard.org/2015/05/analysis-dmv-docs-show-gonzalez-disclosed-condition-and-was-cleared-to-drive/

      In the case of my husband his employer never informed us of his blank outs and he is not aware when he has them. Swift dealership of Davis, Ca let him drive home that day. His employer did not ensure his safety that day.

      Yes my husband had four accidents in the past but they took advantage that my husband has epilepsy and always blamed him without a thorough investigation. He had never been arrested and had no criminal record. Not a fair conviction and definately not a fair sentence. Do you think he will get
      the best care in prison?

      Like

      Comment by belle — November 12, 2015 @ 2:41 AM

  23. I’ve never been able to drive, something happens (not big) but still holds me back every month. If I do myself in I’ll never know about it, but if I do someone else in, I have to live with it. It’s not worth it. I have public transportation around here so I’ll use that.

    Like

    Comment by Dona Blunt — June 30, 2015 @ 8:12 PM

  24. I’m Ashley I just turned 30 and I’m a single mother who lost my license about 2 years ago. I had a grand mal seizure & ended up crossing over into the oncoming lane, but no traffic was coming thank god. The guard rail I completely took out but it managed to somehow do its job & keep my car on the road. I eventually woke up from my unconsciousness in the back of an ambulance & immediately knew what happened. I was so angry with myself, I knew my license was gone! In my state you have to be seizure free for 6 months in order to have a license. So to get my license back & my health in better shape I made a vow to myself that I was going to look into a new dr & be COMPLETELY HONEST with him. That accident made me realize that nothing is going to work & I’m wasting my time if I’m not being completely honest with my dr. So lucky me went like 2 months then had another one, then they started to get closer and closer. I even have had 2 in 1 day & that has never happened to me before. So much for that license ugh!… How do I find out about mail order for my meds? That would be wicked convienent! No public transportation, no family, no significant other, all my friends disappeared when my license did.. I have a total of about 3 people that help me & it’s like pulling teeth. The only dr I see is my neurologist because I can’t spare using my rides up for other appointments. Nobody cares unless there one of us! 💜 everyone just thinks we’re lazy. I’m trying to get approved for disability now because I can’t even keep a job cause I have so many seizures & no transportation. Also everytime I go to an interview I have seizures cause I’m so nervous & they look at me like I’m a whack job. I constantly feel like I’m a drag on everyone else’s life, when I should be worried about my own. 😤 *end rant

    Like

    Comment by Ashley — July 1, 2015 @ 12:45 AM

  25. I agree. It’s a small inconvenience but with big consequences.

    Good for you!

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 1, 2015 @ 8:27 AM

  26. Yes
    No

    Like

    Comment by Dona Blunt — July 2, 2015 @ 7:56 PM

  27. Or maybe so?

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 3, 2015 @ 9:36 AM

  28. http://www.davisvanguard.org/2015/05/analysis-dmv-docs-show-gonzalez-disclosed-condition-and-was-cleared-to-drive/

    This may give you some insight on the case.

    Like

    Comment by Belle — November 12, 2015 @ 2:18 AM

  29. In the case of my husband his employer never informed us of his blank outs and he is not aware when he has them. Swift dealership of Davis, Ca let him drive home that day. His employer did not ensure his safety that day.

    Yes my husband had four accidents in the past but they took advantage that my husband has epilepsy and always blamed him without a thorough investigation. He had never been arrested and had no criminal record. Not a fair conviction and definately not a fair sentence. Do you think he will get the best care in prison? — For Belle

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 12, 2015 @ 11:14 AM

  30. Belle,

    Prison can be cruel. It depends upon where he is placed.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 12, 2015 @ 11:17 AM

  31. My boyfriend had a seizure at home I called 911 will they report it to the DMV in Pennsylvania??

    Like

    Comment by Susan wrhen — December 27, 2015 @ 12:48 PM

  32. Usually, it’s your neurologist who will “report” you. At least that’s what happened to me in PA.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 27, 2015 @ 2:36 PM

  33. I know a lot of people don’t see it as fair. I am 42 and I have never got to drive. I wish I could drive but I think more about other people. I only have 2-4 seizures a month but I don’t have auras anymore.

    Like

    Comment by Tammy Wescott — October 8, 2016 @ 4:04 PM

  34. Tammy, I can certainly see your point. Especially with no auras. Your consideration is both sensible and laudable.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 9, 2016 @ 9:56 AM

  35. I know it’s really hard not being able to drive anymore but it’s not all about you. If you had a seizure while driving you could hurt someone else. Its NOT safe for you or anybody else. Period!!!

    Like

    Comment by Chelsea Hobbs — April 2, 2017 @ 12:51 PM

    • Yes Chelsea, you’re quite right.

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 2, 2017 @ 4:47 PM

      • I was dx’d w/ partial complex seizures. Because I confessed to memory loss after a couple of them my doc reported me. Just got DMV letter today. Live in CA. Haven’t had an episode I 6 months. I cut way back on caffeine & alcohol and haven’t had one since. But I kept inquiring w/ the docs, pushed by my wife, and finally ran into one who told me “I’m going to be the bad cop.” Indeed. If I lose my license I will be screwed. Really feeling angry at this moment.

        Like

        Comment by Steve — May 12, 2017 @ 12:27 AM

  36. And who might this guy be to tell you that you’re going to be a “bad” cop? What makes him a “good doc”? Certainly not this behavior!

    Grrrrr…If I were you, I’d be furious too, Steve.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 12, 2017 @ 9:41 AM

    • Thanks Phyllis. She also put me on lamotrigine, which I started last month. So I will be putting that chemical in my body for two years, doc said.

      Checking DMV website looks like I should qualify for one of their levels of probation, rather than immediate suspension. Still, to go through this bs unnecessarily, really annoying. (Facing my reality now and anger subsiding.)

      By the way, I’ve had two MRIs (different techniques), two EEGs including a 24 hour ambulatory, all negative. This new doc is making me do a 3 day ambulatory next week, which seems unnecessary to me. I say “making” because if I don’t have it she can tell the DMV I’m not compliant.

      Interestingly, I’m being turned in for “lapse of consciousness.” The memory loss episodes are what qualify me for that. I couldn’t remember that I’d been in in Hawaii the week before after one of them. The memories returned the next day. After one of them I was confused about what had just happened.

      I have had a couple while driving. When I felt it coming on I pulled to the side of the road in one instance, and into a parking lot in the other. Took a few minutes after each to figure out where I was, but I continued on to the destination afterwards. Maybe this could raise safety concerns? Like I say, haven’t had one in six months, five of those prior to going on a med; and after eliminating well known triggers.

      Anyway, I am in it now. If I have to I’ll ride my bike to work; only 9 miles away. Exercise is a good thing!

      Like

      Comment by Steve — May 14, 2017 @ 11:06 AM

      • Good attitude Steve. And it’s best to stay with compliance.

        As for the absence seizures, driving is NOT a good idea. (I went into the back of my garage during an absence seizure.)

        Lamotrigine is good stuff. At first, it made me crazy/hyper. But when I adjusted the bedtime dose to 5PM, all was well. No side-effects and 99% seizure free for 10+ years!

        I hope the same goes for you. Good luck. And keep me posted.

        Like

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 14, 2017 @ 12:32 PM

  37. I feel that those with seizures are picked on and marked for life who will hire me with the permanent stamp of “medical issues” on my driving record.

    Like

    Comment by Micaela — July 19, 2017 @ 2:56 AM

    • It’s not always necessary to discuss epilepsy with a potential employer.

      Whether you do or not is up to you.

      If you have excellent seizure control and the employer does not ask any health-related questions, there’s no reason to start talking about epilepsy unless you want to.

      Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers may not ask any health-related questions until after they have offered you the job.

      If you decide to talk about your epilepsy, or if you have to because of a legal question from the employer (after a job has been offered), explain that if one should occur, it will only last a very short time.

      And always reassure how this condition actually affects your ability to perform in a job.

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 19, 2017 @ 9:14 AM


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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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