Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Disney on Wheels

My husband Kenny and I went to Disneyland (and Disney's California Adventure) over Memorial Day weekend (about a week and a half ago) to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary a month early. It was both our first times to visit this particular Disney park. We bought two-day passes for our weekend.

We also rented a wheelchair for me.

When I was a little girl, I visited Disney World with my parents and older brother. We got to the park early so that we could spend as much time as possible at the park. My brother and I ran from ride to ride so that we could minimize the time traveling between rides and maximize the number of rides we could go on.

This time my Disney experience was more subdued and less energetic. Both days we got to the park in the afternoon and left around 7pm on Saturday and 8pm on Sunday. We took our time getting from ride to ride and when we stopped to eat. We didn't get to go on all the rides we had planned, and we left each night when I was too exhausted to go on...not because we were ready to leave.

The wheelchair is the only reason I was able to stay as long as we did on both days. It allowed me to conserve valuable energy that would have been consumed if I had walked between rides and stood in lines for long periods of time. Even so, it was frustrating and humbling spending my weekend at Disney in a wheelchair because it was a physical representation of my disease for all to see.

People's reactions to wheelchairs was interesting to experience firsthand. Some people, children and adults alike, openly stared at me. A few people went the extra mile to be kind, holding doors and stepping aside so that Kenny and I could go in front of them. Others behaved as if I did not exist and merely stepped around me or, in some cases, over the footrests to get by. Those were the people that upset my husband. At one point, Kenny exclaimed in frustration to me: "They're acting like you're not even there!" (Life lesson: The next time you see someone in a wheelchair, please go the extra mile to be kind.)

I must say that I am very impressed with the way Disney has made its park wheelchair accessible for the most part. Though I was in a wheelchair all day both days, I was still able to go on the rides of my choice (even the roller coasters - which are fun, by the way). The park staff did a great job directing Kenny and me when there were alternate entrances or procedures for getting on a ride. My only criticism is that there were not many doors that could open automatically, so it was awkward trying to go through.

Overall, my time at Disneyland was enjoyable. Five years ago, I would not have been able to consider a trip like this at all, so I appreciate what my improved health allows me to do. Still, I look forward to the day that I am completely healthy and can do all the things I want to do when I want to do it. Until then, it's Disney on wheels for me.


Anonymous said...

Hello Alyson,
I came to your blog from the CFIDS Newsletter link and after reading all of your posts I wanted to let you know what a wonderful thing you are doing to share you experience and daily struggles that CFS causes. I too am 30, and was diagnosed with CFS in my mid 20s (after numerous doctors and visits) and reading your blog posts are almost like I am reading my own diary, as I can totally relate. I am doing much better now, and my symptons are less severe, but still have my days where I need to rest/sleep as I have done too much and pushed myself and not listened to my body telling me to rest. Thank you for your advocacy for research and funding to find a cure for CFS!
Kathryn in Virginia

klbrowser said...

I too did Disney in a wheelchair, Epcot Center in 2007. I've had my own chair since 2004 when I nearly collapsed in a Honolulu airport because I simply could not walk another step. On the rare occasions that I have enough energy to leave the house for something that would require walking more than a city block or two, it becomes essential.

One thing that is really annoying about being in a wheelchair is when you are trying take pictures. People will see you there and then will stand right in front of you anyway. On the plus side, babies in strollers really love seeing someone at eye level and will smile at you.