Mike Schickerowski went through a long journey to get his driver’s licence.
The 44-year-old man who lives in Benalto, which is west of Sylvan Lake, Alta., was born with nystagmus and had been legally blind for most of his life.
“By 11 months old, my mother had identified the problem,” said Schickerowski.
“The doctors said that it would be very difficult going forward in my life. They said I would never attend public school. I would never play sports. I would never work in the workforce, and I would never drive a car.”
Nystagmus is a vision disorder in which the eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements.
Schickerowski proved the doctors wrong on many fronts throughout his life. He attended public school with the help of special accommodations, became a provincial wrestling champion, captained his high school football team, and has worked in the “computer field” most of his adult life.
But, one thing the doctors were right about was that he was unable to drive.
“It felt like something I was missing out on. My goals for driving changed over the years. When I was young, it was more about growing up – you sort of move from being a child to an adult and gain your independence,” said Schickerowski.
“But at my age now, it’s felt more like I’ve been missing a connection with my family, my children specifically. I didn’t have the ability to take them to soccer practice or bring them out to get ice cream. All of that had fallen onto my wife’s shoulders.”
His children are 15, nine and seven.
Schickerowski signed up for experimental surgery in California to correct his vision in 2018. Shortly after the procedure, his eyes had settled “slightly out of place,” so he needed to return to California for a second operation.
After the successful surgeries, Schickerowski got his learner’s licence and was finally able get behind the wheel, as long as there was a supervisor in the vehicle.
“Driving’s scary at first. It was hard and I couldn’t believe how much you need to be aware of when driving,” he said.
“I was certainly a nervous wreck at first. But I pushed myself pretty hard – I drove … as frequently as possible. Every day, I pushed myself. It took about three or fours months to be completely comfortable.”
Schickerowski was set to do his road test to get his full licence in April, but COVID-19 delayed his plans. He was finally able to take his road test earlier this month and passed on the first try.
“I can take my kids fishing. I can take them to get ice cream. Even just to go out and pick up parts for something around the house or garage. I’m able to just do that on my own now when I need it, when I want to. It’s an absolutely incredible feeling.”
Schickerowski says is “it’s important for people to realize we shouldn’t give up on our dreams.”