An Open Letter to Disney World (and a reminder to say thank you)

And it happened at Disney World. Which, at first, sounds like a really awful combination but in reality, I think that by it all happening at such a place, it saved us. There were so many people around, and being young parents who’d never in our lives seen anything like what was happening to our baby, we panicked. There was a nurse in line nearby- she saved us. The Disney nurses and on-site EMTs who seemingly appeared out of nowhere- they saved us. Everyone we came into contact with that day was phenomenal. Salt of the earth. And Disney overwhelmed us with their kindness and good will.

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Our little girl is okay. Healthy, happy, herself- running around and wearing me out and copying her sister and making us laugh every single day. But what we went through with her back in December has stuck with me, despite my trying very hard to push those images out of my head entirely- because they still scare me- and I think because of that, I’ve put off what I’ve needed to do since we returned home from our trip right before Christmas. And that is to say thank you. Personally, in my own words, for everything these people did for us. I recently sent this letter directly to them but wanted to share it here too.

Dear Guest Services,

A few months back, my family and I made our long-anticipated pilgrimage from Atlanta to Orlando to spend nine days enjoying Disney World. And enjoy them we did- as we always do. My family and I are frequent visitors to your parks and, like so many people, I have a deep attachment to your company and the experiences you give your guests because I grew up on them. And again, like others, I’m now an adult myself and love that I’m able to pass along that attachment to my own children.

Our most recent visit was in December 2012, and a few days into our trip, we wound up at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on December 13. We spent the morning riding rides and exploring with our daughters and then got into the line for Kilimanjaro Safaris. Our youngest daughter was 18 months old at the time and was nodding off to sleep in her stroller as we entered the queue line. A few minutes later, I happened to look down at her and my heart stopped. Her head had fallen back, her mouth was open, and she was staring off into space in a way where I knew something was very wrong. I spoke to her, then shouted at her, and we grabbed her from the stroller, but she was completely unresponsive. Through some miracle that you only ever see on television, there happened to be a nurse standing in line just a few people ahead of us- and that nurse immediately responded to our pleas, took our beautiful baby into her arms, and told us she was having a seizure. Our baby is perfectly healthy now, and it’s been a few months since all of this happened, but I never wrote to say thank you. And I need to say thank you.

It’s still a blur to me now, but we ran to a break in the line and Disney cast members and first aid were already there waiting for us. I don’t even know who we spoke to- a nurse, an EMT- but the lady and gentleman helping us were two more miracles in a day that could’ve been so much worse. They laid her on the bench, propped her little pink jacket under her head, and someone held my hand as she had a second seizure. Then the ambulance was there, and I remember being walked out through a back entrance to the park, clutching her jacket and watching as the paramedics lifted her into the back. I remember passing through the crowds of people who were watching, and a random woman stretching her arm out to me and telling me she would pray for us. I remember the paramedics giving her medication in the back of the ambulance to stop a third seizure as it began. And I remember feeling so tearfully thankful that so many people were good to us. So thank you.

After my husband and I left in the ambulance with our baby, my parents and brother stayed behind with our older daughter, who is 5. Disney cast members were so gracious and kind to my family: they gave our daughter toys to hold onto for her sister “for when she got better”. They had a car waiting, footsteps away, with even a car seat in the back to take them back to the parking lot so that they could meet us at the hospital. They did everything imaginable to be a source of comfort to my family, and for that, I am so grateful.

After a whirlwind 24 hours- with doctors and nurses and tests and another hospital- our beautiful baby was fine, and the next night, we sat and watched fireworks as a family… together. Since coming home to Atlanta, we’ve gotten the all-clear from our doctors here at home that she’s healthy, and that is the most important thing.

I know the chances are slim, but if anyone, anywhere, happened to get a name or email address or anything from the nurse who helped us, I would love to thank her too. She was just a fellow guest, standing in line with her family, but stepped forward without hesitation to help us- and she stayed by our side for a long time before returning to her family. I’ve always been on the fence about my belief in guardian angels, but if they exist, she was certainly ours that day.

On the surface, no one really needs a reason to gush over Walt Disney World. The magic in your commercials is real; it’s just that this time, I saw that magic manifest itself in very different ways, no less magical than you tout but far more meaningful than I could ever have anticipated. No one ever wants to have an emergency on vacation, least of all in the middle of a theme park with your children in tow. No one ever thinks it’s going to happen to them. But when it does, the comfort you give, the compassion you show, and the professionalism you exhibit are the greatest things you can do for any family. I am forever humbled by every single person whose path we crossed that day. Thank you. Thank you so very, very much.

Respectfully yours,

Krista Turner (Atlanta, Georgia)

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