Having been proved right, or rather not proved wrong, the neurologist had proceeded with treating me exactly as he had said he would. The quantity of drugs were to increase week by week until I hit the magic quantity, and then I’d continue at that level for the rest of my days. Providing I didn’t fit, he saw no reason to scale the medication back down, as it’d only increase the chances of me fitting again and therefore losing my licence for another year. I’d also be tested (and tested and tested) for side-effects, abnormalities and anything else anyone could think of on a regular basis.
Once I’d got the hang of getting hold of repeat prescriptions, it was all fairly straightforward. For some reason, the taxpayer foots the entire bill for those of us taking treatment for epilepsy, so it’s not even costing me the standard prescription charge. All I do is renew with the pharmacist every month (it seems dumb that I can’t get larger quantities less frequently, but I’m not complaining), take a bunch of tablets twice a day, drop in at the local surgery every six months for blood tests, and that’s basically it.
Just as he said he would, the neurologist also factored in my bipolar disorder when prescribing the medication. Curiously, quite a number of anticonvulsants also have mood-stabilising properties, so there were a good few drugs from which he could choose that would tackle both at once, providing he got the dose right. So I followed all the instructions, and the months began to roll by.
Exactly as the DVLA had advised some months previously, began the process of renewing my licence eight weeks before the year-long suspension concluded. The D1 form arrived in the post – it’s exactly the same form everyone else uses when applying for a licence for any reason. You know the one: you have to sign entirely within an awkward rectangle or it’s invalid and you’ve got to do it again. The D1 has two parts – half is the form itself; the other half is instructions on how to fill it in. As I looked over the form and the notes, I realised that you declare the state of your health, past and present, by writing in codes associated with various conditions on the form – codes that are listed on the opposite page. As I looked down the list, epilepsy jumped out straight away… but the very next item on the list made me stop and think. E01 – Epilepsy, then E02 – Fits/Blackouts. Hmm.
Not knowing which to declare, or whether to declare both, I dug out the file containing all the relevant correspondence. I looked over the various letters from the neurologist, but he had never mentioned epilepsy by name. He’d mentioned fits and seizures, but that was it. In fact, reviewing all the medical notes from trips to various hospitals, I couldn’t find a single mention. Moreover, I couldn’t recall anyone ever mentioning it to me. I knew that I’d been prescribed drugs used to treat epilepsy, but did that mean that’s what it is?
I turned to the correspondence from the DVLA. When they formally revoked my licence, they put in black and white that they had done so on the grounds that I was suffering from epilepsy. This could be progress, I thought, but then does that mean I should be declaring both? Am I right to declare that I have experienced fits/blackouts but am being treated for epilepsy? Who knows?
I knew exactly who knew. I wrote to the neurologist, via his secretary’s fax machine, for his advice on what to put. It was also a good opportunity to thank him again, and to feed back that I’d been right as rain for ten months. I rang in a couple of days later just to check they’d received it, just as his secretary was typing out his reply. She read his advice to me over the phone: he’d put epilepsy and only epilepsy, and he didn’t know exactly why the DVLA blur the issue. He went on to explain that fits/seizures/blackouts/ictal events were different terms for basically the same thing, and that epilepsy is a vague term used to describe a tendency towards having these. As far as he was concerned, he was treating the tendency, not the fits themselves, thereby making me an epileptic. I still didn’t really understand it until I had read the letter a number of times for myself when it arrived in the post a few days later, but I expressed my gratitude for a straight-enough answer.
With the D1 form complete, I realised there was bound to be more to it than that, so I rang the DVLA to ask them what else they’d need. Having made it through their daft phone system I was advised that, sure enough, there was another long questionnaire that needed to be completed by my GP. Rather than add delays, I downloaded the form and booked myself in at the surgery. A couple of days later, both the GP and I marvelled at the length and complexity of the thing, but we worked our way through it, and it went back to its makers in the post that day.
A week or so later, I decided it couldn’t hurt to ring in and check that they’d received all the paperwork they needed, but I was in for a surprise. It turned out that, only that same week, they’d changed the process, and there was now a different form. Terrific, I thought, you can’t win. They told me that one was in the post, but I was in no mood for further faffing around, so I Googled and Googled until I found it. Thankfully, the new form was shorter, and didn’t require the GP’s input, so I completed it that day and then (leaving no room for excuses) posted, faxed and emailed it back. Sure enough, in my next phone call, they confirmed they had what they needed from me and would be working through the process.
Once again, there was nothing left for me to do but sit and wait.
More on that… in a bit.