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Monday, May 21, 2012

Five Myths, One Perk (And Mouse Ears)

What's this?  Screaming children?  Long lines?  Stupidly overpriced drinks? This can only mean you're in one place, and lucky for you it's the happiest place on Earth!

Abby, my best friend who came with me on this magical Disney adventure.  Note the $4 frozen lemonade she's holding.  Pure deliciousness, folks.

Yes, Disneyland!  The reason you joined band in middle school, the reason you can no longer listen to that song from OneRepublic, and the only reason your child is going to get up willingly before nine am on a weekday.

No, but joking aside, I really do love Disney.  It's an awesome place, and every time my family goes to California, the first words out of my brother and my mouth is, 'can we go to Disneyland while we're there?'  And though your parents complain and roll their eyes, you sneak a glance at them when you're on Space Mountain, and you know they're having fun, too.  I recently visited Disney with my mom, brother, and my friend Abby (my Dad hates lines and screaming kids, so he stayed home), and it was a blast.

Now, as the diabetics (and diabetic parents) we are, you know where this post is going.  Because we've all heard about it from a friend or doctor or neighbor or whoever you socialize with.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are talking about the legendary diabetic pass at Disney.

I'll be honest; it took my parents forever to convince me to get this.  I was diagnosed at age seven, and the first time I used this was last year, when I was fifteen.  I was nervous.  I thought the cast members would laugh at me.  I thought everyone in the lines was going to hate me.  So up until that point I stuck it out in the lines like everyone else, using those fancy apps that give you wait times and being just like everybody else.  The conversations usually went something like this;

Mom: So Reed, we're going to Disneyland tomorrow, and I just wanted to make sure - 
Me: No.
Mom: Reed it might be nice if - 
Me: No, Mom.
Mom: But - 
Me: I don't want the pass, Mom!  I'm fine.
George (my little brother): Just suck it up and get it!  I don't want to wait two hours for one ride!
Me: No!

...Yeah.  I drove my family nuts on those days.  And as we waited in the California heat, watching the people zip through the empty Fast-Pass line, my brother would look at me and say 'That could be us.'  And I never cared, because I thought it was fine; for one day, I was like everybody else.  And looking back on it now, that isn't true.  So today, I'm going to be sharing five myths about the 'diabetic pass' - be from me or my friends - and showing why they aren't true.

#1 - This thing is going to point out my diabetes to everyone, and I don't want it to

First off, this isn't a 'diabetic fast-pass'.  Not really.  This is, in fact, a Disney guest assistance card.  And if you have diabetes, this is what it will generally look like;

These are commonly given to people with special needs who may have problems if they wait in lines.  They are not going to put a big button on you listing all your medical conditions.  All you need to do is go to the Guest Relations (found in the Town Hall in Disneyland), explain to them that you/your child is diabetic, and the pass is needed in case of an emergency with their blood sugar.  They don't think it's a big deal, the rest of the staff doesn't question you on it (they will usually double-check how many people you bring on the ride, as there's only a certain number you can bring), so why should you worry?  No one is going to ask what's it's for.  They'll just wave you through.

#2 - This is a 'front-of-the-line' pass

A huge myth (and maybe the reason some people seem so bitter) is that this is the golden ticket of Disney.  Let me parade to the front of the line and ride as much as I want.  This pass does not do it.  As you can see above, the accommodation you'll get is the ability to use an alternate entrance.  This does not mean you go to the front of the line!

This version of the assistance card works more like a Fast-Pass, meaning that instead of the regular line, you'll wait in the Fast-Pass line or use the wheelchair entrance on the rides that don't do Fast-Pass.  There will still be a line.  You will wait to get on the ride like everybody else.  The only difference is that the line is shorter, and usually easier to get out of if you suddenly find yourself low.  And if you're low and have to leave, you aren't waiting another hour to try and ride.

#3 - People will be mad at me if they see me use this pass

This was one of my big worries about the pass.  But when I started using it, I came to the most interesting revelation; nobody really cares.

Seriously.  Nobody is going to look twice at the group in the Fast-Pass line.  Half the time, they all just assume it is a fast-pass.  On the rare occasion another person questions me, it's usually because they've got a medical condition themselves, and they want to know if they can get this.  Heck, even the Cast Members don't ask questions.  They just glance at it, make sure the number of people you're bringing in matches the number on the pass (or is less), and they wave you off and go back to gossiping about whatever it is Disney employees gossip about (did you hear Minnie was talking to Donald earlier today?  Do you think she'll break up with Mickey?)

#4 - This pass is no help to me

Actually, you'd be surprised how helpful this pass can be.  There was a time I corrected for a high blood sugar and went low in line (in the days before I used the pass).  And this was a two hour line.  My mother and I had to get out, go find a vendor, buy something, and work our way back through the line to find my Dad and brother.  That caused more of a commotion then it would have if I'd had the pass.

Usually in the Fast-Pass line, there are several Cast Members stationed throughout the line to make sure no one's sneaking in.  They will help you get out of that line, and even help get you something to get your blood sugar back up.  And when you're back up, they'll get you back in the line like nothing ever happened.  Going low at a place like Disney is very scary to think about.  And I honestly don't think about it that much anymore.

#5 - I just want to be like everybody else

I don't need special treatment.

I'm strong.

I have my blood sugar under control; this pass isn't for me.

I can handle it.

Yes.  Maybe you can handle it.  Maybe you do have it under control.  I'm sure you're plenty strong.  I'm sure the idea of special treatment doesn't excite you as much as your mooching little siblings who hate long lines.  That's not the point.

We try so much to be like everybody else every day.  We crave it; to throw away those meters and pumps and Flexpens and say 'I'm normal.'   But the thing is...we aren't.  We can't flip a switch and make this go away.  So what's wrong with, every now and then, giving yourself a break?  Saying 'I deserve this'?  Not worrying about diabetes, and just focusing on having a good time?  This is Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth, remember?  What's wrong with being happy?

Trust me, it may seem weird doing it at first, but you'd be surprised how quickly that feeling goes away when a two hour wait is cut down to ten minutes.

Disneyland for diabetes; filled with friends, family, mouse ears, memories, and shorter lines.  Sounds like fun to me.


  1. Reed, your blog is great! You inspire me and your strength in facing your diabetes inspires me to conquer my diabetes! Keep it up Girlie! Love reading the encouragement! And I can't wait to hit Disneyland with that pass! ;)

    1. Thank you very much! :-) I have fun writing it!

  2. Hi Reed!

    My name is Alyson Ludlow and I've had Type One Diabetes for ten years (I'm 18). I really appreciate your blog, and admire you! I'm going to Disneyland in June and I seriously had no idea there was a disability pass that we qualified for. Last time I went to Disneyland, I had to change a site and fix low blood sugar while I was in was a pain. You seriously are a lifesaver!