Tuesday, September 30, 2008

To Whom It May Concern.

As you can see from the photo, my husband and I visited your theme park this past Saturday. I've been to Great America numerous times in my life, starting when the park opened (in 1976 I was just a kid and it was called "Marriott's Great America"). I also happen to have type 1 diabetes, which I've successfully managed for over 25 years without complications. You might notice the black bag I'm carrying in the photo. This bag--a travel pack specifically made to strap securely to the body, much like a waist or "fanny" pack--holds my diabetes supplies. These include insulin, syringes, a blood glucose meter and glucose tablets for treating hypoglycemia. Being able to quickly test my blood sugar level and administer either glucose or insulin as needed is central to my self-care regimen. This bag is literally my lifeline, especially in a busy theme park like Great America. I must be able to access my supplies at any time; to lose this bag would be, quite frankly, life-threatening.

I had my bag on Logger's Run, as you can see in the photo. I also carried my bag onto the Demon (which I first rode as a child, when it was called the "Turn of the Century"), and encountered no incident despite the two upside-down loops the rollercoaster makes in its run. The Viper, with its 80-foot drop and maximum speeds of 50 MPH, also presented no challenge to my bag or its contents. However it is with great disappointment that I write to inform you of two other incidents that happened to me last weekend, both due to this bag.

My husband and I approached the American Eagle rollercoaster with great anticipation--this ride is one of our favorites--at about 3:30PM on Saturday, Sept. 28. We haven't been to the park for a year and were unaware of the fact that some rides, including the Eagle, now require "loose articles" to be left behind in lockers near ride boarding areas. A park employee stopped us and informed me of the rule. I explained my condition, and explained that my bag is a) not "loose", but strapped to my body and b) contains items that are medically necessary. The young lady replied that I must show medical identification in order to carry my bag onto the ride. I produced my MedicAlert bracelet, but she she stopped me again. She muttered something about "a manager has to approve this". However, instead of calling for management, she pointed to the lockers and told me I had to leave my bag behind if I wanted to go on the Eagle. I asked for her manager, but she had already walked away and ignored my calling after her. We were left to wonder at the inconsistency of her explanation without any offer of further assistance.

Because my husband and I wanted to preserve the previously happy atmosphere of the day, we declined to pursue the matter and, with great regret, chose not to ride the Eagle. After going on Logger's Run, we decided to go on the Whizzer, another old favorite, at about 4:30PM. We entered without incident and had already taken our seats on the rollercoaster when a park employee named Chris walked up to our car. He informed me that I had to remove my bag and leave it in an unlocked storage bin before being allowed to ride. When I again mentioned my need to carry the bag and identified my medical condition, Chris replied in a loud voice, "Well you're not going to have to shoot up on the ride, are you?" This comment was heard by everyone in the first half of the boarding area, and was made in a sarcastic tone that seriously offended me and my husband. I got out of my seat in disgust and left the ride. The park was closed to the public on Saturday to celebrate "Accenture Family Day", and my husband's work colleagues could very well have overheard Chris' remark and misinterpreted it. We left the park for good after this incident, our day having been effectively ruined by Chris' action. I shudder to think of how Chris would have spoken this way to a child with diabetes.

An unsecured bag storage area is a completely unacceptable solution for my diabetes supplies. As the ride has two separate trains, riders of the previous Whizzer train have unsupervised access when they return. My bag could have deliberately or accidentally been taken by one of these riders. Additionally, Chris' rude, ignorant remark made me wary of leaving my bag within his reach. Moreover, there was no signage prior to boarding the rollercoaster that indicated anything about "loose items"--which, again, my bag was not. A locker might seem like a solution, however insulin is highly susceptible to damage in hot weather and the lockers, while in shaded areas, have no ventilation or cooling system. Further, it turned me off to see another park guest encounter serious difficulty in getting her locker open after going on the "Dark Knight" ride; she waited over 30 minutes for a park employee to provide assistance, and though her locker was finally unlocked there was no explanation provided for the delay. If my insulin, money and source of glucose were to be locked away from me for 30 minutes, I would encounter significant trouble in regulating my blood glucose levels due to stress over the lack of access to my supplies. Therefore the locker solution, while admirable, leaves me unsatisfied.

I have no wish to reverse your policy on "loose items" on rides at Great America. I am sure there are valid legal and common-sense reasons for your restrictions (though I do find it absolutely incredible that an upside-down, multi-looping rollercoaster like the Demon has NO restriction on such items, whereas the Whizzer--a ride which is rated acceptable even for smaller children--has such a rule.) But the application and enforcement of your rules seems arbitrary and left up to the judgement of park employees, at least two of whom are clearly ill-equipped to deal with park guests who have disabilities. If a guest like me qualifies for special consideration under these rules, I expect park employees to be prompt and courteous in securing a manager if they have questions about that qualification. If a guest like me must indeed remove a bag before going on a ride, I expect the park employee handling the matter to treat me with respect, not make a callous, discriminatory remark that borders on slander.

For a couple or a family to truly enjoy Great America, there is little consolation in asking someone to stay off a ride for having a bag that is clearly a) NOT a toy, b) NOT a fashion accessory, or c) 100% essential to that person's health. What it does is make that person--me--feel left out and unwelcome. To me there is no longer anything "great" about Great America.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Diabetes: 1, Home: 0

Oy. I'm struggling today. Last night's scorecard looks like this:

10:30PM: Go to bed with a BG of 178 and a snack (cereal--tricky, as we know...)

12:30AM: Wake up sweaty, shaking and ringing in at 34. Not good. Massive inhaling of carbs ensues. Take a correction dose of 2u Humalog to (hopefully) reverse the 'diabetic wolverine' effect.

4:30AM: Wake up, use the washroom. Test to see how the BG handled the crash earlier. 434...whoa. Take 3u and drink a few glasses of water, and try to go to sleep.

6:30AM: The cat decides to use my head as a pillow. I wake up and test: 212. Whew. I'm exhausted.

7:30AM: Out the door to work, still holding steady at 213. I take a half unit of Humalog, crack open a Diet Coke and prepare for the hour-long drive in to the office.

9:30AM: Back down to earth (relatively) at 183. Can I go home yet...?!?!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Am Being Chased By an Angry Black Bear

...in my dream, through a house I've never been in and with people I've never met. We go outside and I can see large paw prints in the dirt. The stranger with me wants to find the bear. I say, "Are you #^%(*^!!!** crazy? Let's get away!" But it's too late. The bear has seen us, and she's hungry. I feel a sense of dread as she approaches...

...and then I wake up. My blood sugar, which was 54 at 3:30AM, is now 303 as I get dressed for work. Weird.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Night Videos: Commercial Mania!

Oh God, those cheesy '80s commercials!

For shoes:

And kids (heavy on the Cabbage Patch Kids, of course):

And McD's (look for a future "Seinfeld" cast member):

And food (where's the whaa...?!)

And, ahem, unmentionables (for us girls!):

And, of course, those 'legendary' Levi's Button Fly 501 jeans:

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

In Memoriam

Seven years on, we will never forget. (Dedicated to the memory of Marni Pont O'Doherty, Long Island, NY.)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Where Do You Go?

...and what can you do, when you're 19 and a type 1--and don't have insurance?


"Marquis Hart, 19, learned Feb. 1 that his All Kids coverage had ended. His mother, Linda Hart, a nursing assistant who is uninsured, has since been borrowing money from family and friends for her son's diabetes supplies: $90 a month for two types of insulin, $100 a month for a box of syringes for injections, and more for alcohol pads and strips for his glucose monitor. 'He's only taking his [blood] sugar [levels] when he feels funny because he [doesn't] have coverage anymore, and I don't have the money to pay for what he needs,' Hart said.

Hart is enrolling as a freshman at Daley College this month, but the school won't pay for his diabetes supplies and medications. Hart, who plans to major in computers and business, is anxious about what's going to happen to his health. 'It's a struggle to get the money to pay for what I need. I'd like to try to work, but no one's hiring," he said. "If only they could help me out until I find a way to better myself.'"

*Sigh* I was lucky at 19, my parents' health insurance still covered me. But I've been in the state program cited here and was close to being in Marquis' shoes as an adult. I went to bed with a knot in my stomach every night for a year, hoping I wouldn't lose my coverage. And all along I was made to feel having diabetes was somehow my fault or a character flaw, simply because I needed expensive medicines to stay alive.

How do you fix a broken system? How can we get both sides to agree on the problem?!

Sorry, rant over. Just reading about this upsets me...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday Night Videos

Greetings to the OC, from whose friendly ranks I've been absent lately...L-I-F-E has gotten busy, namely work, but I'm still here (:-)

Here's a song from an '80s trio that makes me think of you all. Enjoy the weekend!