Case Study

“Being able to drive again has massively benefitted my mental health and wellbeing”

Jenna Fitzgerald, 33, from Sligo sustained a C5/6 spinal injury in 2014 whilst on holiday in Spain. After weeks in an induced coma followed by 9 months in hospital, Jenna worked tirelessly to get her life back on track. She set out a five-year plan. This included returning to college to continue her studies and getting back behind the wheel. Jenna tells us what it’s like to drive again, the positive effect on her mental health, and how her Sirus Ford Drive/Upfront wheelchair adapted vehicle has helped her rebuild her life after spinal cord injury.

“I have had my Sirus Ford Drive/Upfront wheelchair adapted vehicle since last July, and being able to drive again has had a huge impact on my life. It has massively benefitted my mental health and wellbeing because I now have my independence back! I can go out on my own without relying on others, if ever I feel down I can jump in the car and go for a drive, and I can start to repay the favours to all of those people who helped me during the last five years.

Driving my adapted vehicle has been a massive factor in rebuilding my life

Now I have my independence I have the ability to drive to and from college to continue my studies.  I’ve had so much help since my accident, I decided to study to become a counsellor. The plan is to complete my course and begin my career, with the ability to drive to work independently.

wheelchair driver

Rear wheelchair adapted vehicles

Before I was able to drive again, I had a wheelchair accessible vehicle where I sat in the back.  It was so difficult to chat with anyone in the front as it was so noisy. It was extremely uncomfortable and any bumps in the road caused excruciating pain.  I found that sitting in the back messes with your head, I actually felt like a child again. 

Q Straint wheelchair lock

(Pictured above – Q Straint wheelchair securing system for sitting in the passenger position).


Operating the Sirus Ford is so easy

I can open the ramp and side sliding door from inside the house, so when the weather is bad, I can open up the car and go straight in. There are so many amazing functions on the Ford, I’m literally still learning about them. The Pre-Collision Assist is great, it warns you and automatically brakes if there is a car or pedestrian in front of you, and the Ford SYNC3 handsfree is great to make calls safely.

push pull hand controls

Back behind the wheel

After driving for just three months I drove three and a half hours to Dublin for my neurology appointment. It felt great! I wasn’t tired or nervous, even on the bumpy roads it was such a smooth ride because of the adapted suspension.

driving adaptations

Lowering suspension

My wheelchair adapted vehicle feels so different from other wav’s due to the lowering suspension. I can hardly feel the bumps in the road, and even going over speed bumps feels completely different. I’m a massive advocate of this feature, it makes such a difference, especially to someone with a spinal injury. My parent can’t believe how smooth the ride is. Plus there is also a lot less road noise so I can easily chat with people in the back.

Travelling in the front in my wheelchair

When I don’t feel like driving, I can sit in the front in my wheelchair which is absolutely amazing and totally different from sitting in the back. Occasionally my Dad drives, we couldn’t believe how easy it was to swap the seats around, this man can’t change a lightbulb and he did it in seconds!

Fighting the good fight

I am damn proud of what I have achieved and overcome since my injury despite every single barrier that was thrown at me, and the constant battle to progress to a level of independence I could live with. I kept fighting the good fight the right way and it has paid off. I’m glad to be here and excited for my future and what it holds”.

disabled driver

Thank you Jenna, from everyone at Sirus. You are an inspiration. 

Follow Jenna on Instagram: @jenfitzi

Every four hours, someone in the UK is permanently paralysed. Back Up inspire people affected by spinal cord injury to get the most out of life.  Find out more at Back Up Trust. 

Jenna purchased her Sirus wheelchair adapted vehicle through Motability Ireland.

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