Shortly after my husband and I got married in August 2010, I made an appointment with the California Department of Motor Vehicles to change my last name. At the time, I had no idea what an ordeal that appointment would turn out to be. (And yes, my husband and I were re-creating the famous Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston wedding photo in the picture above, which was taken by wedding photographer extraordinaire Rob Greer. You can read more about that story on my IAMNOTASTALKER blog here.)
I had informed the DMV that I was diabetic when it came time to renew my license in 2008, two years before I got married, and I did not think that my illness would at all play a part in my name-change appointment, which I assumed would be a simple in-and-out procedure. I was wrong – on both counts. To change one’s name at the DMV, a Driver License Application Form (known as a DL 44 in California) must be filled out. The form (which is not available online, otherwise I would provide a link to it) asks a series of medical questions, including if the applicant is diabetic. I, of course, checked yes. But again, this was not new information to the DMV – my file had clearly stated, since 2008, that I was a Type 1 diabetic on insulin.
So I was absolutely shocked when the DMV clerk freaked out upon seeing my paperwork. She informed me that, as a diabetic, I was a “high-risk driver” and that she would have to suspend my license immediately until my “case” could be further reviewed. She also suggested that I call someone to pick me up as I would not be allowed to drive home. It was at that point that I had a complete and total meltdown.
Thankfully, the clerk (who did look quite a bit like the woman below from the 1988 flick License to Drive ) regressed once I put up a fight and agreed to let me keep my license for the time being. (Come to find out, it is actually illegal for the DMV to suspend a license on the spot in a case like mine – a case in which a driver has not had an accident or been referred to the DMV by their physician as a safety risk.) She did move my license status to “probationary”, though, and sent my case to the DMV Driver Safety Branch.
A few weeks later I received a letter in the mail informing me that I was required to attend a hearing with a DMV safety officer, who would determine if I was fit to drive. I also received a lengthy questionnaire that I was to have my doctor fill out. All this for someone who had never so much as had a speeding ticket!
And let me be the first to say here that I am all about safety. If I actually suffered from a condition in which my ability to drive was impaired, I would have no problem with the DMV taking extra steps before handing over a license. But diabetes? Sure diabetics run the risk (a very miniscule risk, mind you) of going into a diabetic-induced coma due to low blood sugar, but we can feel our blood sugar getting low LONG before the point of actually losing consciousness. A diabetic suffering from hypoglycemia does not just automatically pass out. There are definite – and very recognizable – symptoms that come into play long beforehand. Heck, I have even been woken up out of a deep sleep when my sugar was low thanks to those symptoms. So lapsing into a coma while driving is not a very likely happenstance.
Flash forward six weeks to my Driver Safety hearing, which, I was shocked to discover, was an actual hearing – the entire thing was tape-recorded and I was put under oath! Thankfully though, the safety officer assigned to my case was intelligent, and, while not very well-versed on the subject of diabetes and its complications, I felt like she listened – and trusted – what I had to say. One of the first questions she asked was how many times a day I typically test my blood sugar. When I answered, “At least eight”, she almost fell out of her chair. She informed me that most diabetics she talked to tested their blood just two or three times in a 24-hour period. I clarified that I test when I first wake up, before and after eating breakfast, before and after eating lunch, before and after eating dinner, before I go to bed, and at various times throughout the day when I feel my sugar to be either high or low. It was then that I think she realized that I not only take my disease very seriously, but that I also take very good care of myself.
My hearing took about 45 minutes and afterward the officer declared that I was fit to drive (duh!) and that she was reinstating my license. Thank God! The whole ordeal, which lasted about two months from the time I first visited the DMV to my hearing, was a nightmare, though. And, after all of that, I still had to make yet another appointment to actually change my last name! Just what I wanted to do – go back to the DMV. Ugh! I recently stumbled upon this fabulous post on the Diabetes Attorney website which I urge any diabetic heading to the DMV to read. Doing so would have saved me one heck of a headache!