I just got home from an awesome six days in Florida with my Mom’s side of the family. It was great to see everyone again—now that all the kids are growing up, it’s harder for us to spend time together between everyone’s different schedules. We made the most out of our almost-week together: we hung out at the beach and pool, played a bunch of games, and we even took a cousin trip to IHOP for a dinner of pancakes and waffles that the parents (and my blood sugars) were not too pleased with…. The highlight of the trip was the three days we spent in Orlando going to amusement parks and Disney attractions. On Monday, our whole group went to Magic Kingdom for some good ‘ole fashioned family fun. We spent the next day recovering at the pool before getting dinner at Downtown Disney, and on Wednesday, my uncle took a smaller group of us to Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Both days at the park were wonderful, but our second day held something extra for us.
I had tweeted on my @DiabeticGirls account on Tuesday night that, as fun as they are, amusement parks always made me a little antsy regarding my diabetes. Certain rides do not allow you to bring bags, and even when I told the ride attendant that I was diabetic, he refused to let me carry my purse. I don’t like having to part with my supplies just to wait in seemingly endless lines for rides: the heat, the walking, and the thrill of the rides make my blood sugars go low as is, and the thought of being stuck in line without my juice boxes forms knots in the pit of my stomach. I had been low for the first half of the day we spent at Magic Kingdom on Monday, but luckily we didn’t go on any rides there that required me to store my purse in a locker. Islands of Adventure would be another story, though. I thought about the first time I rode the Harry Potter castle ride over last year’s spring break: I waited in line for two hours, carrying a juice box with me that I tossed before I got on the ride. I had made sure my blood sugar was nice and high before locking up my purse and stepping in line, but I was nervous I was going to drop as I waited to board the ride. It’s obviously doable to go on all the rides at parks, but not without a certain level of unease, discomfort, and high blood sugars.
So, like I said, I tweeted my fears to my followers. Some replied saying that they shared my stress at amusement parks; others responded saying that they cause a scene and refuse to part with their bags under any circumstances. The best responses, though, were the ones that mentioned “diabetes passes” that let you “skip the lines” at the parks. I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but I decided I’d ask the first ride attendant we met at the park the next day. I went to bed feeling a little less anxious about the upcoming day, glad to have a plan in place.
Sometimes all you have to do is ask and you shall receive. I asked the first attendant I met—a friendly witch outside the Harry Potter ride—if the park had any kinds of accommodations for diabetics. She replied that they do. Fifteen minutes later, my five cousins, my uncle, and I were all on our way in the Express Lane of the Harry Potter castle ride. I had to lock up my bag, but I was through the line and off the ride in twenty minutes or so, and my blood sugar hardly waivered during that time.
We were able to enjoy over twice the number rides at Islands of Adventure than we went on Monday at Magic Kingdom thanks to my assistance pass. I couldn’t believe that my family and I were treated to such a luxury: I went to Guest Services, where I got a pass that allowed me and my six family members to use Express Lanes on all the rides. There were some restrictions—we didn’t just waltz right on to every ride—but that pass absolutely made our day at the parks, mine especially.
I don’t tell my readers about this pass to brag about my special privileges that day, or to reveal a little-known secret about amusement parks—I’m sharing this because Universal’s Islands of Adventure made me feel like a superstar, a hero, and a champion that day at the park. I’m usually the one at parks slowing everyone down: “Dani’s low, we need to sit down and eat now,” or “Wait, Dani needs to check a bag before we can go on this ride.” I know my family doesn’t mind waiting for me, but it was nice for once to be their ticket to the fast lane. My twelve-year-old cousin turned to me a couple times during the day and said “Dani, thank you so much for having diabetes! This rocks!” And I actually was happy I had diabetes that day—I was the one who sped my family from ride to ride; I was the reason they got to enjoy their day even more. I felt a little guilty about my pass at first—I don’t need to skip the lines, I thought to myself…but I deal with diabetes every single day of my life, and my family has to deal with it, too—why shouldn’t we accept the opportunities available to us? I hope that Universal—and other parks that I’m sure offer similar accommodations—knows how much I appreciate their good will and concern for their customers. I’m almost 21 years old, but I was as giddy as my little cousin at the park that day: I felt special, important, useful, and proud to be a diabetic, and I’d like to thank Universal for that, and the incredible day they gave me and my family. It’s amazing what a little compassion can do for another, and I have nothing but positive words for Islands of Adventure and all of its accommodating employees. Thanks for making our day at the park one that none of us will forget.