Tag Archives: Mobility

You Can Fly

When there’s a smile in your heart, there’s no better time to start                                    Think of all the joy you’ll find, when you leave the world behind                                        And bid your cares goodbye!  You can fly! You can fly!                                                                                                       YOU CAN FLY!”       – You Can Fly- Peter Pan

I love that song, and not because of the movie, but because of the encouragement that it provides when you have a little “faith, trust, and pixie dust” floating around in your life.  Sometimes in life, we are overwhelmed, over-worked, and over-scheduled.  Those were the thoughts from our pastor this week.  He was right.  We spend so much time trying to meet every demand on our calendars, hit every deadline, attend every meeting, practice, concert, and it all becomes too much.  Stress takes over our ragged bodies, and we begin to deflate a little each time it happens.

But if you are wise, and turn your thoughts to something “lighter” when you are upset, things can begin to look up.  This photo for instance, was not one that I originally planned.  But as we were waiting in line for Peter Pan’s Flight, I caught a glimpse of these two, side by side, enjoying a loving moment together, holding onto each other’s hands and “ooh-ing and ahh-ing” about the scenes from the movie.  Gabe’s legs were pretty wore out from the day, and we had to park his wheelchair and walk just a bit to this ride.  It wasn’t bad, but a little longer than we had anticipated.  Syd knew he needed a hug and some love, and instantly, he was back to giggling and having a good time.  It also just happened to be at the spot in line, where your shadow is cast along the wall.  I knew, I needed to get my camera out, because I wanted to remember this moment forever.  A glimpse at this photo, gives me a glimpse at what I live for:  my family.  At the end of the day, no matter what meeting was attended, what game was played, what plans were made, my family is everything to me, and they are the reason that I want to better my life.  They are the reason I know I have been blessed, and they are the reason why, no matter what happens, I have to just smile and be grateful for all I have been given.  When my life bucket “feels” empty, I know it is something I have done to myself, but also within myself, I can think about the ones I love, and suddenly, my life bucket is full, overflowing.  Amazing how one photo can remind you of everything you live for.  They give me my wings, and they allow me to fly.

I have been very fortunate to have a family who supports my dreams, and who knows that without their love, I would be able to make it, but I wouldn’t be as fulfilled.  Love gives us wings we didn’t realize we had.  Just like in Peter Pan, they believed in themselves and each other, and that faith allowed them to fly.

We do Disney because of that feeling, the way we believe in each other, and how we support each other’s dreams.  Disney allows us to “never grow up”, to relive moments that we loved as children, and to explore our passions while being together as a family.  I would love to give you the same experiences that I have shared with my family.  Let’s create some magic together, and find out where our wings can take us:  debbie.lands@magical-vacations.com

 

I’ve Got No Strings

“I’ve Got No Strings to hold me down
To make me fret, or make me frown
I had strings, but now I’m free
There are no strings on me

Hi-ho the merry-o
That’s the only way to be
I want the world to know
Nothing ever worries me”

Oh my sweet, sweet son, Gabe.  He truly encompasses this song.  Never one to truly complain unless he is in immeasurable pain.  He was born with a condition called joint laxity.  To sum it up, his joints are very loose, making him extremely flexible.  While that is great in some ways, it isn’t great if it affects your hips, knees, ankles, and feet.  At this point, in his nine years, Gabe doesn’t require full leg braces, crutches, or a permanent wheelchair.  We have gone to therapy for six of his nine years.   Before I get too far ahead of myself, while Gabe was born with this condition, we didn’t “know” he had THIS particular condition until after a trip to Disney after he finished first grade.  Up to that point, Gabe spent time in physical and occupational therapy from the age of 1 1/2 to 6 1/2, being released at the end of Kindergarten.  At that point, we thought his only concern was tight heel cords, and after intense therapy for four years, he was finally in the normal range of motion.   He was released to go and play like any other child was able to.  Running was always difficult for Gabe, but he could still do it.  Now….let’s fast forward a year to the end of first grade.

It wasn’t until we did Disney last summer, when this Disney momma jam packed an entire day of walking and events,  that we realized just how much pain Gabe was consistently in.  He has a very high pain threshold, and never, ever tells us he is “hurting”, because, fortunately for him, he doesn’t experience pain until it is just unbearable for him.  But at that point, we have to find a way to ease his pain immediately.   We were at Disney for a week, but by the end of the second day, he was hurting pretty badly, and I knew we had to just slow way down and take things easy for him, allowing more frequent breaks than what a family would normally take during a Disney trip, making sure he had time to stretch out his legs and feet and plenty of time to swim (which is REALLY good for him).  By the end of the trip, he was tired, but no more so than what a normal 7 year old would be.

We returned home for our summer, and Gabe didn’t complain the rest of the summer about his legs or feet hurting.

We took a Labor Day trip to Disney with my mother, and it was upon that trip that we realized this problem was more intense than before.   Even though we scaled back on walking, since we knew it helped him during our last trip and because my mom has had knee surgeries , it still wasn’t enough.  He began to fatigue so much quicker than he had in the past.  I knew something was different than before.

When we returned from our trip, we called his therapy center to make an appointment with his orthopedic specialist.  We would have to wait two months to get in.   But during the waiting period, they gave us some suggestions on how to help him until we could meet with his doctor.  When our appointment finally came, we realized his leg flexibility and range of motion had actually begun to regress, which is why the pain suddenly came fast and furious.  This was the appointment when we were told that he had a more intense problem than first detected, and sometimes it just takes kids growing up, putting more weight on their frame, and becoming more active before some of these things become a concern.   During this appointment, he was fitted for night splints and orthotic inserts for his shoes.  It was a new beginning for us, as we would spend the next four months trying to figure out the right plan of action for him that didn’t create more pain, but in the end, we did.

We had to wait six more weeks to start therapy, and once we started in February of this past year, we jumped right in.  Gabe has always had absolutely wonderful therapists who are incredibly knowledgeable and tremendously kind to him.  After two months of therapy, lots of loosening and tightening of his different splints and orthotics,  in April it was discovered by his specialist that he had joint laxity, and from that point, everything began to make sense.  We began using a different type of orthotic, one that supported his ankle, foot, and arch better.  Walking became so much easier for him, and he didn’t fatigue as easy.  During the time of trying to figure things out, he would be completely exhausted two hours into the school day.  Thankfully, Gabe went to school where I teach, his classroom was right next door to mine, and his teacher is one of my best friends.  We worked very well together to keep Gabe as pain free as possible.

At the end of May, it was time for a week at Disney.  I had been in heavy discussion with his therapists about what would be best for Gabe and we all agreed that we should NOT cancel the trip, he should enjoy himself, and we should rent a wheelchair.  I called Disney directly and asked for their recommendations.  They gave me several suggestions and from there I truly just chose one to call.  I called Best Price Mobility and not only were they incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, but they made me feel very at ease regarding a situation that I knew nothing about.  We spoke on the phone a couple times before we arrived at Disney and each time, I never felt that I was an “annoying customer”.  They truly have great concern for their customers.

They had Gabe’s wheelchair ready and waiting for him at Bell Services when we arrived at the Polynesian that afternoon, and of course, in true Disney style, it was wheeled right up to him and he was helped into the chair and made to feel like a king.  He was even given a lei from the front desk.

Every single fear that I had about his mobility was taken away from that point on.  He was completely comfortable and EVERY SINGLE DISNEY employee that we encountered made all of us, but especially him, feel that he was the most important person in the room.  They opened doors for us when we couldn’t, they always spoke to him or made jokes with him, they kindly asked people to move in order for him to get through, and we were never treated as a nuisance when we had to get through restaurants or character interactions due to his wheelchair.  Gabe could walk on his own, and he did when necessary.  But to keep his fatigue down, we pushed him when possible, and he would exit the wheelchair to go onto rides, take pictures, go swimming, etc.

Many people have asked me questions about how we maneuvered through the parks, the monorail, the resorts, dining, and extreme crowds with a child in a wheelchair.  Honestly, it wasn’t a lot different than when we did it with a stroller as far as being difficult on my end.  The wheelchair itself was extremely easy to use and Gabe could move himself if needed.

As we got onto buses (which wasn’t often, I will be honest, as we stayed on the monorail loop), we very simply got in the handicapped line, and when our bus approached, we were seated first, where they strapped Gabe in, speaking to him, making sure he was ok.  They always offered me a seat first, but I always chose to stand next to him.  Someone else could use my seat.   Then, we were always assisted in getting off the bus, using a ramp getting on and off the bus.

The monorail line was pretty much the same.  They had a separate line for handicapped individuals, and we often would share with strollers.  They would seat us first, then strollers, and others, again, using a ramp.  I would stand with Gabe if the monorail was crowded, he would lock himself down, and we were off.

Getting in and out of elevators was pretty simple, and most were large enough that we were able to turn fully around inside of them.

Bathrooms were the only area of “concern”, yet it made me say several times, how much true respect I have for those who live this life everyday.  While there is plenty of room in the bathrooms, I really wish there was a way to invent an automatic door, which could be deactivated once inside, as this would make things a lot easier for the handicapped.  That was the only struggle we had, and luckily, he had me to help him.  Cast members that were near the restrooms, or even other guests, would help us.  It wasn’t a nuisance, but it made us realize how difficult others really do have it when it comes to a very simple task such as using the bathroom.

Swimming was easy for him as well.  We would push the wheelchair up to the pool, go into the handicapped accessible area, park near where we were laying our things, take off his orthotics, and Gabe would walk the short distance over and step into the pool!  There was always a cast member near our pool, who could assist us getting inside the handicapped accessible door.  If I haven’t said it enough, the cast members were fantastic.  Never a frown, never a complaint, always willing to help.  Every single experience was amazing.

When we would come to rides, we would either park it in a designated area, or he would remain in his seat for spots that have handicapped seating.  I always let them know that he didn’t “have” to stay in his seat.  I know that there are true handicapped people who need spots and I don’t want to pretend for one minute that he deserved their spots over them.  However, cast members would assure me that he was totally fine and everyone that needed a spot was taken care of.  Fastpass + rides were never a concern because he didn’t have to wait in line long, and again, we would park the wheelchair and walk to the fastpass line, or we would remain in the wheelchair and a cast member would take it to the ending spot.

The time that I really saw how amazing Disney treats those with mobility concerns was when we rode rides where we didn’t have fastpasses and the lines were LONG.  Really long.  They have designated paths for wheelchairs, and while we still had to wait in line, it wasn’t as crowded, we had room to get through the line with his wheelchair, and there was always a cast member or two willing to cut up with Gabe.  They would always ask us if he could leave his wheelchair for the ride, which we said yes, and they would take us to a certain point where we would wait, where again, another cast member would come over and speak to us, mainly to Gabe.

Gabe was never obnoxious about this.  That isn’t his personality anyway.  To know Gabe, is to know, that he is the child who apologizes for his mom having to push him in a wheelchair, for us having to go slower because of him, for us not getting to race to the front of the line because of him.  What he doesn’t realize is that because of him, we take things in so much better.  We see life at a slower pace, but we appreciate life for the beauty of the moment.  We don’t rush.  We enjoy each other and each thing that we do together.  If we miss something, oh well.  There will be something else waiting on us that we probably would have enjoyed even better.  We do things for each other.  We are kinder to each other. BECAUSE we slow down.  It was glorious.  It made me truly appreciate all the extra effort that Disney puts into treating everyone as if they are the only people in the park.

One particular moment that I think of, when I think of this past trip this summer, was when we were at Hollywood Studios.  We had about an hour until Fantasmic, and needed a filler.  We strolled over to see if we could make the Toy Story Mania ride.  As we were walking and pushing over, a family cut us off, causing me to have to yank Gabe’s wheelchair to the side.  Yes, we were walking slow, but not turtle speed slow.  I ended up bumping into a sweet young lady, and said I was sorry.  She just smiled at me and said it was ok.

When we got to Toy Story Mania, that family that cut us off was near the front of the line, and we were at the end, realizing that we couldn’t wait 50 minutes in line because we would miss our fastpass for Fantasmic.  We made a decision to leave and just as we were turning around, the girl I bumped into returned to me, with fastpasses for our family.  She was a cast member, said she felt bad that we had been “knocked over” and wanted to offer us something to help.  Of course, I cried.  I thanked her repeatedly, and asked what I could do for her.  She said nothing, except to enjoy them.

So we did, and we got right into the Toy Story Mania line, used those fastpasses, where I made sure to tell the cast members what she had done for us, asking them to please find a way for their supervisor to know what she had done (they assured me they would, they knew who she was), and we completed what was probably the most magical ride of the night.  My heart was full.  It is the true spirit of Disney magic.  Pay it forward people, it never hurts.

When our week was over, we left our wheelchair at Bell Services again, and Best Price Mobility picked it up for us. We were charged exactly as we were quoted.  It was the easiest process possible.

That is my experience with using a wheelchair at Disney.  I know there are thousands upon thousands of others.  But hopefully this one will help answer some questions that some of you might have regarding how easy it is for those of you who may have mobility concerns.  And just like little Pinocchio, Gabe has no strings tying him down.

Happy Working Song

After our vacation ended, we were back home, and back to the normal, day to day activities.  Our family had a lot of things on the agenda for the summer, but we were also enjoying being home together as we were all finished with school for a few months.  Being an elementary school teacher, I have always had the opportunity to have time off with my children to relax and soak up as much summer fun as possible.  Up until this summer, I have also always coached either cheerleading or softball, and for the first summer in eighteen years, I had nothing professionally to do except plan the next school year.

As I made plans for another school year, I found my mind drifting to the thoughts of wishing I had a side business….planning more Disney trips.  Don’t let this confuse you, I love teaching, I always have.  But I am also getting to the point in my career where retiring is closer to happening, as I am not getting any younger.  I know I can’t “not work”.  I know that I love Disney, and it just feels natural to want that as part of my professional life.  Several friends were taking trips in the upcoming months, and several had talked to me, wanting my opinion about what they should do, where they should stay, even talking to me about joining DVC.  I found that a lot of my conversations revolved around Disney in some form or fashion, and I didn’t mind it at all.

While our summer moved on,  and we were dreaming of days back in the Florida sun, my youngest child fell and broke his leg.  I guess a week in a wheelchair at Disney wasn’t enough for him, because he got saddled with six more weeks.  My poor son ended up being in either a wheelchair or using crutches for the remainder of the summer break.  After seventy four days, two different casts, and two different walking boots,  he finally was released.  During those days that we were homebound, we spent most of our time watching Disney movies, and planning for our next trip the following summer.  He handled it all so well, and honestly never complained about a thing.  He was a fantastic little trooper.

As the school year resumed, and we all went our separate ways to our schools, my mind began to wander off to how quickly our summer seemed to fly by.  I still had friends coming to me wanting to discuss their Disney trips, and I am fortunate enough to work with one of my best friends, who also has a passion for Disney.  We find a way, each day, to talk about something regarding our trips, or friends/family members who have been on trips, or even just our children and how much they love Mickey Mouse.  We love discussing these things because it just brings an air of happiness to us and we forget about the stresses that we may currently be under.

One morning in September, I woke up around 3 am, which is not my normal wake up time. I hopped on the computer and began thinking of my friend Nikki, who was my vacation specialist.  I then went to the company website, read some bios of some of the specialists, and saw the link for “Join Our Team”.  I don’t know what came over me, but I decided to fill out the form.  I truly didn’t think I had a shot, but I thought, at least I could say that I tried.  If it was meant to be it would work out.

Less than a week later, I had a response.  I was siting in a restaurant drive through, waiting to place my order when the reply came through.  I opened it immediately, and I was prompted to answer a few more questions.  Initially, I planned to wait until I got home, and then would reply when I would have some quiet time to myself to really think about how I wanted to answer.

That would have been a great plan.

Instead, I answered each question immediately.  It felt right.  I didn’t want to wait.  I kept thinking “don’t get ahead of yourself, take it slow”, but I just poured my heart into my answers and again thought, “what do I have to lose?”.

About two weeks later, I had another response.  This time, I about fell out of my chair when I saw the email.  They “still” wanted to talk to me??  How???  Why me??  I spent about an hour answering questions this time, wanting them to be perfect, knowing that if I didn’t answer these correctly, my one shot would be gone.  I felt really confident with my answers.  Still not confident that this job would be mine,  just confident that I gave it my all.

A week later, another response.  This one saying that she would be in touch soon.

Five weeks later, I finally got the email I had been checking my inbox for, day and night.  I was asked to be interviewed.  We scheduled a time to talk, and had anticipated it would take 20-30 minutes.  After an hour and ten minutes of one of the best conversations I have had, I had this little feeling inside, that my dream could really become a reality.

It did.

A few days later I was offered a contract with Magical Vacations, LLC.  I began my training immediately, and finished as quick as possible.  I booked my first vacation for  a guest before training was even complete!

I had never been more ready for anything in my whole life, as I was for this opportunity.  I had tried other part time businesses in the past, where I had to “get out there” and promote myself, and I could just never see myself doing that.  But this was different.  I wanted to get out there, I wanted to be seen and heard.  I wanted to continue helping people find their happiness.  I knew I could do it, if given the opportunity.  I was so thankful for this chance and for people believing in me.  This was what I was waiting for….waiting on….waiting to do.

The most wonderful thing, is I am able to continue my job as an educator, and maintain a job that allows my dreams to come true.

In my next post, I will begin sharing with you,  all of the wonderful experiences you can have, while doing life the Disney way.