It’s Safer on the Bus

As the sun began to set Debbie Sholun leans against a bus shelter with cigarette in hand. After a day of grocery shopping the New Haven native waits for her bus, talking to two other women in the shelter as she flicks away the ashes at the end of her cigarette. She said she quit driving, not because she’s too old, but because it would be safer.

“I have epilepsy and I took myself off the road,” said Sholun. “I had a seizure while I was driving and I could have killed somebody, so I was like ‘I just can’t do this anymore’.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) epilepsy is a chronic neurological condition characterized by recurrent seizures. The symptoms can vary from short periods of unconsciousness to full blown convulsions. In 2012 the CDC reported 2.3 million adults in the United States are affected by epilepsy. Currently there is no cure and the illness isn’t gender or age specific–it can happen to anyone.

After 35 years of driving, Sholun gave up her driver’s license to the DMV. Since then she’s been taking CTTansit’s public bus system to go shopping, borrow books from the library, visit friends and  visit her five grandchildren. Though she’s grateful for the bus’ service she does have a few minor complaints.img_1838-2

“They [the buses] could try to be on time,” Sholun said smiling. “They should also put up more shelters. In a lot of places there’s nowhere to sit, so sometimes you have to stand for a long time or sit on the curb.”

Minutes passed and the temperature dropped. The bus going to towards New Haven was running late, something Sholun expected. Having epilepsy may have forced her to give up her driver’s license, but it didn’t stop her from going places. Having epilepsy does, however, limit her already small choices for employment.

“With epilepsy I do get disoriented at times. Even with cashiering sometimes I blank out and can’t handle money or work a slicer for making sandwiches. There are somethings that I just can’t do,” said Sholun before putting out her cigarette. “I really don’t know what I’m capable of doing.”

Sholun is receiving survivors benefits from her late husband and her own Social Security income to cover her daily expenses, but it isn’t enough.

“I really need to supplement my income,” Sholun said. “It’s really tough looking for something.”