Driving to success

11th January 2018

Disability campaigner Helen Dolphin MBE is always eager to inspire people to go for and achieve their dreams. Here she tells us about the joy of getting behind the wheel again and encourages other meningitis survivors to get excited about driving

Helen D

“After losing all my limbs to meningitis in 1998 I thought I’d never be able to drive again. It was therefore a fantastic feeling to eventually get back behind the wheel three years later in my first Motability car."

“The first car I had was a Honda Shuttle and it was big enough to carry a large powered wheelchair."

“However, improvements in prosthetics and lightweight chairs mean that now I either walk or push myself so my car can be smaller. In fact, I got a bit obsessed with small cars and for several years drove a BMW 1 series, which was a bit of a squeeze for my assistance dog!"

More spacious

“Now I have a BMW 3 series which is a lot roomier but means it’s easier to fit in everything I need. My assistance dog Fairport also finds it a lot more spacious." 

“I have had very similar driving adaptations ever since I started driving again. For me this is a steering cup, lightened steering and secondary controls in my headrest. I used to have the key ignition replaced with a push button start, an automatic boot opener and reversing camera installed but in most cars this is now just standard."

“I think it’s great when I read how other survivors of meningitis are excited about driving and I encourage every young person to give it a go."

Giving me independence

“It gave me the independence I was desperate for after my recovery. For anyone who is eligible, Motability are a great help, not only with getting the right assessment but also funding things like adaptations and driving lessons."

“And once you’re driving I run a scheme called People’s Parking – see www.peoplesparking.org – to help everyone find a car park that meets their needs. I came up with the idea as I struggled to take tickets out of parking machines to enter the car park."

“I hope I can inspire people with disabilities to strive for greater things, as well as changing people’s attitudes and understanding towards people with disabilities.”

Our Chief Executive Tom Nutt said, “What Helen has accomplished and the way she has rebuilt her life after meningitis is incredible. Her story is so encouraging and motivating for anyone suffering the after-effects of this disease, highlighting that with the right support so much is still possible and there is light at the end of the tunnel."

“At Meningitis Now we want everyone affected by meningitis to know that there is help available and we are here to support them in whatever way we can for as long as they need us.”

Helen works as an Independent Mobility Consultant. Contact her on 01603 471 585 or 07941 253 947, or @mrsflipper1001