I was fortunate to experience Disney Magic when I was a child as my parents surprised my brother and I to a trip to Florida. Those magic memories lived with me for many years and to say I couldn’t wait to take our children was an understatement! Ollie had emergency surgery when he was 3 following a ruptured appendix and a 4 year old Izzy had taken it upon herself to stand outside, look up to the stars and make a wish. Unaware that I was listening, she wished that when Ollie was better that we could all go to Mickey Mouse’s house! So with a little magic from Father Christmas at London Gatwick Airport (where the children thought they were dropping their Dad for a business trip), we made a wish come true and spent Christmas in Florida.
Team Keeling had a very special Christmas in 2011, one which has not been beaten to date! Of course wishes like this cannot be granted all the time, just for special occasions, so it was no surprise to Jason when I said I would like to celebrate my 40th (eeeek did I just admit that, I mean 21st!) birthday in Disney World, Florida. A few years on and my allergies had become more of a problem. As I stated in my previous post (read here) I ‘d learnt harsh lessons and couldn’t ever afford to risk my life again. Sadly I experienced anaphylaxis whilst on duty in June 2014 as a result of others not taking my latex allergy seriously. This saw the end of my career in the Police Force. A holiday with my family meant more than I can explain, needless to say I didn’t want any trips to ER. Anyone with allergies will know how difficult it is to deal with on a daily basis; travelling abroad is a whole new ball game.
I usually make contact with a restaurant/hotel prior making a reservation so I decided to make contact with Disney World Guest Relations and explain my predicament. I needed to alert them of my allergies and make enquiries with regards to eating in their restaurants. I also wanted to know what would happen in the unlikely event of anaphylaxis. The parks are huge, how would paramedics reach me in time? From previous experience I knew the customer care was excellent so I didn’t hesitate to email Guest Relations with all my concerns. A day later I received a telephone call from a lady, Taylor Wilke, in Guest Relations. She was kind enough to spend a considerable amount of time discussing my allergies to peanuts and almonds, but also in greater detail my allergy to latex – the allergy that is the most problematic yet the least recognised by people. Taylor stated that she would need some time to enquire with their restaurants and departments which dealt with housekeeping within the parks to ascertain whether latex gloves were in use or not. She also discussed first aid procedures within the parks and I was assured to know that there was exciting news about EpiPens (auto-injector of adrenaline used for anaphylaxis- a life threatening allergic reaction) available within the parks.
Mylan Inc. had entered into a multi-year strategic alliance agreement with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to provide greater access to EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr® and also increase awareness of anaphylaxis. Every year, millions of guests visit the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in the United States. Many of those guests, like myself live with severe allergies. Allergies are increasing and are a serious health issue. Anaphylaxis can progress quickly and without warning; access to emergency medication is crucial.
Of course it goes without saying that I should carry my own medication at all times, however access to epinephrine on a rare occasion the medication I have myself failed to work is very reassuring indeed. Please remember to check all the expiry dates of any emergency adrenaline prior to setting off on your Disney vacation and take a prescription with you to show Doctors that you or your child would usually be prescribed this medication. I was given details of park maps which highlighted locations of emergency adrenaline (marked EAIs on the map), AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators) and access to First Aid. In addition to the emergency medical services, Disney have trained nurses to administer EAIs who are available during first aid station operating hours. Outstanding!
Just a few days later I received a telephone call from Taylor who once again provided exceptional customer care. I was advised that no latex gloves were used by catering staff or staff in the housekeeping areas that we would be attending. Perfect. One major issue sorted. In relation to peanuts & almonds I was advised to:
Identify your food allergies to a host or hostess upon arrival. Request to speak with the chef or manager.
Tell the waiter/waitress immediately, making sure you have their full attention as you discuss it. Request to speak with the chef or manager, if they haven’t already attended your table.
Discuss your meal with the chef or manager. Ask them to double check food labels if there are in any doubt about the ingredients.
Taylor requested that I contacted Guest Relations should I have any further enquiries, even if a problem occurred during our visit, after all I may still encounter latex as it is a public place. I have to say Disney’s Customer Service is faultless. I could stop worrying and begin to look forward to our vacation.
April 2015 (a couple of months later than my birthday as weather is better than January!) I celebrated my 21st (!) birthday with special friends. A truly amazing holiday, once again. I have always loved Disney but there is nothing quite like seeing magic through your children’s eyes. I am so very grateful to Disney for being as allergy aware as they are. I arrived at the bag search area and informed the security officer that I was carrying x2 EpiPens. This of course is permitted as are your own snacks and meals for people with food allergies or intolerances. There were balloons throughout the park however it was so nice to walk around freely knowing that these are latex free. Believe me when you are a latex allergy sufferer balloons everywhere are a nightmare. Even my children are anxious when we see them. Staff were always well informed about food allergies and knowledgeable about meal ingredients. Nothing was ever too much trouble. A lot of organisations could learn from this. At no time was I ever made to feel awkward or embarrassed for wanting to stay alive! From the offset I was well informed, reassured and well prepared – these are all key ingredients to ensure a safe, happy time. So a massive thank you Disney for a wonderful vacation. I would thoroughly recommend any family visit your Parks & Resorts in Florida. You leave no stone unturned!
For more information about the Mylan-Disney alliance, and to find advice and inspiration for living life to the fullest while managing severe allergies. take a look at:
Izzy and Ollie is a new Children's Safety Education project which was inspired when 2 and a half year old Isabelle called an ambulance for her Mum when she experienced a life threatening allergic reaction. The incident made Joanne consider how wonderful it would be if all young children could be educated about emergency situations. To simply learn their full name, age and address as early as possible (as her 1st book illustrates) could be highly beneficial not only to themselves, but it could also contribute to help save other people’s life. The books follow characters Izzy and Ollie who find themselves entangled in various situations. They encompass Child Safety issues together with simple courses of action that children could learn and replicate should they ever find themselves in the same situation.
“Every child is born a genius.” Richard Buckminster Fuller
“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.”
Charles R. Swindoll
“Life, love, and laughter – what priceless gifts to give our children.” Phyllis Dryden