FOR 30 years, Michelle Willis has driven on the roads without a blemish on her licence.
Now, road officials have forced the community nurse to surrender her documents after medics told her a sight defect she has had since birth means she must put the brake on her driving.
The 47-year-old has mounted a fight against the decision, which has left her to catch buses or walk to patients in the community, or offer treatment at a clinic instead.
Michelle touched the hearts of Wearsiders 30 years ago when the Echo revealed her fight to lead a normal life after she endured years of painful operations to rebuild the side of her face after being born with a tumour where one of her eyes should be.
Michelle, of Hall Farm, has been driving since she was 17, and is now in dispute with the authorities after her licence was revoked after a routine eye check.
“I went for an eye test at Spec Savers and the optician found a ‘pit’ on the back of my eye,” she said.
“She said ‘It is quite common, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, so I will send you to the eye infirmary.”
The consultant at the hospital gave Michelle the all-clear, and said she had probably been born with the condition.
Michelle explained: “He said, ‘You need to inform the DVLA, but I really don’t think your eyesight is defective.’”
She informed the DVLA, who referred her to an optician in Sunderland, for a test of her peripheral vision.
It was then she received the bad news. “He said ‘If your vision has been this bad from birth, you should never have been given a driving licence in the first place,’” said Michelle.
Now, she had been forced to surrender her right to drive, despite an unblemished safety record.
“I have lost my licence after 30 years of driving with no accidents,” she said.
“My point is, if this has been a problem all along, why has it not been picked up on until now?
“Why, all of a sudden, am I losing my licence after 30 years?
“I have driven all my adult life, since I passed my test when I was 17. My life is totally going to change now.”
Michelle initially feared losing her licence would cost her her job as a community nurse, but has been reassured her role is safe.
“They are going to keep me in the treatment room and just let me go out to jobs I can walk to or get to by bus,” she said.
Now Michelle hopes to challenge the DVLA ruling with support from her consultant.
“I have informed them I am going to appeal,” she said.
“I have not given up hope.” A DVLA spokesperson confirmed Michelle had the right to appeal and produce additional evidence to support her case.
“Britain has some of the safest roads in the world and licensing rules play an important part in keeping our roads safe,” he said. All drivers are required by law to meet the appropriate eyesight standard at all times while driving. Any driver who is unable to meet these standards cannot hold a driving licence.”