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On the road after recovery
He was able to walk at first, but his doctor told him he'd probably lose that ability as he got older. The doctor was right: Ehli started using a cane about a year after the accident, then a scooter, then a motorized wheelchair.
"It just slowly got worse," Ehli said. "I fell down a lot. I've gotten a lot of bruises. Floors in the house know me well."
He still drove but had difficulty getting in and out of the mini-van purchased in 2008. Finally, he gave up driving about a year ago.
"I was so bad I couldn't get out of the house or in the vehicle by myself," he said. "I had to have help, and even then, I would fall down."
He is able to use the accelerator and brake with his right foot, and now he doesn't have to rely on others to get out of the house in Bismarck, where he and his wife have lived since 2004.
"I can actually go somewhere by myself now. For a couple of years, I couldn't go anywhere by myself unless I had help," Ehli said. "It just gives me freedom to come and go as I want. I don't have to worry about falling down and laying there, waiting for someone to pick me up."
Kori Erikson, a certified driver rehabilitation specialist at Sanford Health, said that the driver rehab program helps find funding sources and equipment dealers and trains patients to drive the vehicle. Specialists also evaluate people to make sure they're still safe drivers.
"You can have a lot of adaptive equipment, but if it doesn't fit the patient, it won't do any good," she said. "You can't just slap this stuff on any car and go."
Sanford Health started the program in 1994 when therapists saw the need for it.
"A lot of our patients would ask "when and how can I drive?" she said.
Sanford Health's is the only driver rehab program in central and western North Dakota.
Most of the patients have had brain injuries, arthritis, spinal cord injuries, stroke, amputations, multiple sclerosis and, increasingly, Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
The program is geared toward previously licensed drivers, such as Ehli.
"They did everything," he said, "They got me on the program, trained me to drive. It was a great program, and I'm very thankful they did it."
Click here for more information on Sanford Health’s driver rehabilitation program, or call 701.323.6153.