What Happens During a Medical Emergency at Disney World?

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As I mentioned last week, my family faced a medical emergency when we were in the parks during our recent vacation. I thought I’d take this week to tell readers about what happened when my mom had an emergency since many people have to deal with similar situations during their trips. Unfortunately, sometimes our health gets in the way of our having a good time at Disney World, but the cast members are there to help take care of the injured or sick guests and their families.

It all started shortly after we had arrived at the Magic Kingdom. Everything was going well until my mom started to not feel so hot. We thought we’d go to the Country Bear Jamboree since we wouldn’t have to wait and she could sit in the air conditioning for a while and try to feel better. It sounded like a great plan, but she only made it through a minute of the show when she said she needed to get out of there. My dad and I took her back out of the entrance while the rest of the family stayed with the kids to enjoy the show.

When we made our way out a cast member immediately spotted us and asked if we needed assistance. We had made our way out of the building so my mom could sit in her ECV, and the cast member popped back inside to call for help and then made sure to stay with us until help arrived. First on the scene was a security guard who took down some basic information and asked me if her condition was “ride induced.” Since we had only done the Tiki Room and two minutes of Country Bears, it was safe to say that this was not a reaction to a ride.

An area manager came next and talked to us briefly, conferred with the other cast members, and hung around to oversee the situation. She couldn’t have been nicer, but I’ll talk about that more later. EMTs were quickly on the scene to attend to the patient. Even though we were pretty sure she was having a flair up from her ulcer problem, the paramedics took no chances. They evaluated the situation and decided she needed to be moved backstage and probably be taken to the hospital. The security cast member and other attraction cast members were sure to keep other guests away from the area to allow the EMTs to work and keep my mom as comfortable as possible.

The manager I mentioned hung out with me while the EMTs treated my mom got her onto the stretcher. She talked to me about my mom’s condition as well as some other odds and ends. I told her I didn’t want my nieces and nephew to see their grandma in this state. She didn’t waste a second and asked me to follow her to grab my family as they exited the Country Bear Jamboree to keep them away from the area where my mom was being treated. She took the family into the nearest store, where she bought the kids lollipops; they were happily oblivious to anything happening outside. I was so grateful for her help I could have hugged her.

Meanwhile, the EMTs were about ready to take my mom to the ambulance, so I asked them what the procedure from there would be. One of them explained that they do not decide what to do with her. They simply had to get her to the ambulance, which was waiting backstage, and the paramedics working the rig would decide if she needed to go to the hospital or not (although it looked like they would be bringing her). There was only room in the ambulance for one other person, so my dad was the only one who could go with her. We said we’d be in touch via cell phone and hope for the best.

My brother, sister-in-law, and I were left with the kids to decide how to proceed with the rest of our afternoon and evening. We decided the best thing to do was to go back to the resort and bring the kids to the pool and try to relax a little. Because we had rented an ECV, I had to maneuver it out of the park. Our main concern was keeping the kids happy and trying to keep them unaware of the situation. I was so happy to have them around since they kept me smiling even when I was worried about my mom. Everyone was exhausted from our long day, so most of the family called it a night early, and I got to have dinner with some local friends. They were all amazingly supportive and offered to help in any way they could. A distracting dinner was exactly what I needed from them.

The ambulance brought my mom to Celebration Hospital, where she spent the night in the emergency room since there were no available beds in regular rooms. The doctors ran several tests to make sure she was okay before they released her. My dad stayed with her until her tests were complete that night. I originally thought I’d have to call on one of my local friends to drive me to go pick him up when he was ready to come back to the resort. However, I found out Disney would pay for his transportation between the Polynesian and the hospital. A friend mentioned a shuttle service between the resorts and the hospital, but a nurse at the hospital told my dad to take a take a taxi and that he would be reimbursed at the hotel. This policy worked out really well for our family, and we were grateful to have it.

The next morning, after talking to her doctors in New Jersey, the emergency room doctors decided my mom was able to go back to her vacation. She couldn’t wait to get out of there! Dad went back to pick her up with a taxi, and they were back at the Polynesian to relax with the family by about 4 p.m. Luckily, we were able to get get on with the rest of our trip, although we may have relaxed the pace a bit. We were all happy to be back together and enjoy Disney World together!

I hope none of our readers ever has to deal with bringing their loved ones to the hospital during a Disney World vacation, but at least you know they will be well taken care of if it happens. Happy and healthy travels to you all!

Kristen Helmstetter

Kristen Helmstetter is an Unofficial Guide researcher who will share her 20-something perspective of all things Walt Disney World with blog readers. Kristen’s email address is khelmstetter05@yahoo.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @khelmstetter.

17 thoughts on “What Happens During a Medical Emergency at Disney World?

  • March 14, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. I had a similar experience with an emergency at Animal Kingdom. I tripped and fell somehow and hurt my leg and my head. I was amazed at how fast the cast members where there and helped to keep my kids calm during the entire incident. I was told to remain on the ground until the EMT’s arrived which was a source of embarrassment for me, but also because they were unsure how I had fallen and if I had lost consciousness. I do remember at one point having 5-6 cast members there circling me on the ground. The EMT’s arrived and since I was fine at that point, I preferred not to go to the hospital. We have a picture of me with the EMT’s that I will add to my Disney scrapbook with the story of why they were there! My kids still talk about how I fell and needs the EMT’s at Disney.

    • March 16, 2012 at 4:55 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Sheryl! It sounds like you took a nasty fall, but I’m glad you were all right and cast members were helpful!

  • March 14, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Isn’t Disney wonderful! We had an emergency last month while staying at Pop Century. My husband had a muscle spasm in his back that was quite painful. I went to the front desk to see about a doctor. They not only called the doctor for me but relayed the symptoms. They were told that he had to go to emergency. They arranged a taxi and gave him a voucher for the ride. Upon his return, the taxi driver took the voucher and made him pay. Pop Century refunded the amount of the taxi to my credit card. He was given a precription at the hospital and Pop Century arranged to get the prescription and have it delivered to the hotel. When we met the lady at the desk the next day she even asked how my husband was feeling. I cannot say enough about the service and wonderful, helpful attitudes of almost every single Disney employee we met over those eight days! It was magical!

    • March 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm

      I’m so glad they took care of your husband, Lynne! It is really amazing how helpful the cast members can be.

  • March 14, 2012 at 11:03 am

    So glad to hear everything went so smoothly, and that your mother was able to enjoy the rest of her vacation thereafter.

  • March 14, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Glad to hear that your mom is ok, and very pleased to see how Disney handled it.

    • March 16, 2012 at 4:57 pm

      Disney was wonderful, especially the Frontierland cast who helped us. I’ll always be grateful to them. Thanks for the comment!

  • March 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Glad to hear everything went well. Unfortunately emergencies are never convenient (especially on vacation) but its nice to know they go out of their way to help.

    • March 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm

      Their helpfulness certainly helped easy the blow. The ease of getting to and from the hospital really made a difference for us. Thanks for the comment!

  • March 14, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Odd: I had a completely different experience at Epcot in August, 2009. I suffered from heat stroke and my companion couldn’t find a cast member willing to help us. After badgering the manager in Morocco for 10+ minutes he finally sent someone for a wheel chair so she could get me to the health care center. I was surprised by the unwillingness to help, considering the usual thoughtfulness of everyone at Disney.

    • March 14, 2012 at 7:13 pm

      I’m not a vengeful person but I’d have been taking names! Glad you did n’t suffer lasting consequences.

      • March 16, 2012 at 4:59 pm

        That is so strange! I’ve always had good experiences when I needed help no matter how minor the situation was. Another friend had heat stroke a few summers ago, and they were great to her. I hope you let Disney know how your experience was, even if you didn’t have specifics. That sounds very unlike them. So sorry you had a cruddy time of it!

  • March 14, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    So glad your mother is fine. I have a son who is prophylactic to bee stings. He carries an epipen, it is always a concern of mine about emergency procedures.

    • March 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      They seemed to be very on top of it as soon as someone noticed her not feeling well. I’m sure they would be just as helpful with your son! Hopefully you’ll never have to find out first hand. Thanks for the comment!

  • March 15, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Kristen – I’m so happy to hear that your mom is better and you were able to finish your awesome family vacation!

    Just another tip – if you need OTC drugs, a pharmacy called Turner Drugs will deliver to your resort. I had the misfortune of coming down with a beyond horrible cold at the World a couple of years ago and obviously hadn’t thought to pack the things I’d normally use while ill. You’ll pay a premium for the products, but it’s still cheaper than taking a taxi or renting a car. Plus it’s nice to have medicine brought directly to you when you don’t feel well.

    • March 16, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks for the tip, Katie! I’m sure it will be helpful to many of our readers.

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