Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Animal Kingdom with Mast Cell Disease and Service Dog

This was our final day in the parks. When we knew we only would be spending 3 days at Disney, we had to choose which parks made the cut. Magic Kingdom was a can't go to Disney and NOT visit MK. Epcot was another must-do for us since it is the most popular "adult-ish" park, plus we had been there years ago and wanted to see how it had changed. That left Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. We chose AK because if we had to choose between animals and movies/TV, animals win every time.

Leni ready to tackle her 3rd Disney park!
We got there when the park opened (again, seeing a theme??). To be honest, though, this park probably felt the busiest at its opening than either MK or Epcot. We had originally planned to start our day at It's a Bug's Life...then we saw that they use a fog/smoke machine. Halloween 2015 sent me to the ER after a similar machine was used at a wedding reception, so we decided skipping this attraction was probably a wise decision (plus we later found out it was 3D with bugs and spiders popping out of the screen which made my mom VERY glad we didn't stay =P).

Instead, we headed over to the Kilimanjaro Safari! This was the best ride at Animal Kingdom in our opinion. We had scheduled a FastPass+ for late morning, but the standby wait was only 10 minutes, so we decided to go about 9:15 am. I HIGHLY recommend going on this ride as early (or late if that's an option) as possible. The animals are more active morning and night, so if you go right away (or get on an evening/night safari) you have the best chance of seeing some species and activity in general. Also, it gets HOT! Even at the time we went, if we had to stop in direct sunlight (which we did to let an ostrich cross the road...), things heated up quickly.

Leni was allowed on this ride. Honestly, I was surprised they allowed service dogs on this ride since I figured it could be tricky with the safari animals if they saw her or vice versa. It ended up being completely fine. They had us sit in the front of the jeep and gave me a tether to connect Leni to a hook on the floor. I'm guessing this was to ensure she couldn't jump out if she wanted to chase an animal or something. Not sure because Leni didn't think it was anything special. Initially she was trying to look around and her nose was sniffing all over, but soon she settled and just snoozed the rest of the ride. 

After the safari, we needed a break from the heat, so we rushed into a Lion King show just as it was starting. The cast member at the door directed us to the disability seating so Leni had space which was fine for the first 5-10 minutes of the show...apparently Disney is a huge fan of fog/smoke machines because this show used them, too. We immediately got up and moved over to the side. I was hoping to stay because the show was looking pretty interesting, but wanted to be as far as possible from the fog/smoke. We had a cast member re-seat us in the back row which felt like a comfortable distance from the action since the fog/smoke was sucked down vents in the floor a few feet in front of the first row. This show was pretty loud and flashy, but fun! Leni didn't care at all and just lay at my feet.

Once we finished the show, it was seriously heating up. We pulled out Leni's cooling vest at this point, but it had rained during the show, so the ground was cool enough that she didn't need her boots yet (she was very happy about that =P). One of the things Disney is known for (at least in the food allergy world) is their Dole Whip. It is a pineapple ice cream/frozen yogurt that is dairy free (wheat free and soy free)! We had been hoping to find some for me to try, and we finally did! It was a nice cool treat on a hot day and fun to feel "normal" by enjoying some ice cream with my mom.

Allergy-friendly Dole Whip!
Next up was Kali River Rapids. We were actually a bit disappointed by this ride. =( First, the ride itself was underwhelming. We had been on a few similar rafting rides before, and this was not nearly as exciting. It was short and there was really only one section that added a slight thrill factor. We did get quite wet, which was nice considering how hot it was. The second part that was not so great was how they handled Leni. Just like at MK and Epcot, we asked for the portable crate so Mom and I could ride together. That was fine. Except a cast member is supposed to stay with her the entire time so she is not left alone. No one did. We got back to pick her up at the end of the ride, and could hear her whining and barking. The cast member by the line said she had been doing that almost the whole time, and when we went around the corner to get her, we found her a strange crate...she was fine, but definitely not happy.

The other thing I should mention was how I handled Herman (my feeding tube) for this ride. Since we knew we would likely get quite wet, I didn't want to have my backpack with me on the ride. That meant that I ended up stopping my feeds and unplugging Herman. I left my bag with Leni at the crate, and just re-hooked my feeds after the ride.

So funny story: It's been almost a full year that I've had Leni and over a year and a half that I have had Herman. That means it has been 11 months since I have done anything without both Leni and Herman and over a year and a half without carrying my backpack with me. Walking to the ride (and back) after leaving Leni and Herman at the crate was such a crazy feeling of temporary freedom! Haha =P Who knows the next time I'll feel that way, so I enjoyed those 27 steps of freedom from feeding tubes and leashes. Don't get me wrong, I am so thankful for both Herman and Leni, but it still felt freeing.

After Kali River Rapids, we left AK for the Animal Kingdom Lodge where we had lunch reservations at Sanaa. This was an African/Indian inspired restaurant located right next to the savannah so we got to watch giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, and crazy birds while we ate. Super cool! We choose this restaurant because both my mom and I LOVE Indian food, but it had been YEARS since I had tried any. Trying to communicate complicated food allergies in restaurants where the staff do not speak English as their first language is often challenging and we avoid as we are never sure whether it has been handled properly (plus the whole not eating solid foods for a while didn't help either...). Since Disney is so well known for food allergies, we decided to give this a try!

Allergy-friendly naan bread
Yet again, Disney went above and beyond not just in handling my food allergies, but in making sure I felt safe eating there. They had my allergies noted on our reservation, our server was notified, and the chef came out to personally speak with me. I was able to try some dairy free/wheat free/soy free naan (Indian-style bread) while my mom had regular naan, and they made me a lentil dahl and chickpea wat with rice that was completely safe. I so wish my stomach and mast cells would have let me eat it all because it tasted amazing!!! Regardless, I am so thankful to have been able to eat what I did and have the opportunity to enjoy some Indian food again!

Allergy-friend Indian/Moroccan food!! Lentil Dahl, Basmati Rice, and Chickpea Wat
Before heading back to our resort, we checked out a few other Disney resorts for some of travelers who will be here at Disney in about a month. This evening was relatively quiet as Leni and I were very exhausted and wiped out from the past few days. After a relatively minimally reactive day, I started having the initial symptoms of a potentially bad reaction. Thankfully extra doses of my emergency meds were able to help, and I made it through with no EpiPen needed! Three days at Disney and no Epi...that's a mast cell win if I ever saw one!!

The aftermath of 3 days at Disney...but it was worth it!

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