Column: The Most Magical Place on Earth; It’s Not Just a Slogan

Gray Houser
Oxford Stories

Everyone who knows me knows I love Disney Parks. Heck, I even run a Disney Parks news site.

I love everything about it – from the sights and sounds of Main Street, to the thrills and chills of my favorite attraction, The Haunted Mansion. So, obviously, I was ecstatic to return last summer for a nine-day trip. Unfortunately, a week before I was scheduled to depart, my left eye began to malfunction.

Now I’m no stranger to malfunctioning eyes. I’ve had eye issues from birth. I was born a micro-preemie, so it comes with the territory. To fill you in, I’m legally blind, but it doesn’t stop me. Yes, it’s hard to read a physical book, but that’s what eBooks are for. I usually overcome whatever obstacles I’m confronted with, but this time it was different.

So, I’m used to visiting my favorite place and not being able to see it all. Sure, I can do everything, but literally seeing it is a different story.

Don’t get me wrong, Disney’s cast members are incredibly accommodating. They always make sure I get that front row seat at the fireworks and let me go through attractions with a flashlight, as my vision deteriorates in low-light conditions.

But I digress.

A week before I departed, I began to see flashes and floaters in my vision. I brushed it off as nothing much to worry about and went to see a movie. Once I got home, I noticed something. Anytime I looked into a light or a screen, my vision blurred. This would persist and get worse as the night and weekend went on.

I quickly booked an appointment with a retina specialist. The doctor looked into my eyes and told me I had a PVD (Posterior vitreous detachment). He told me to go ahead and go on my trip, to try and enjoy the Magic Kingdom with a blurry eye.

Naturally, I wanted a second opinion.

It wasn’t that I didn’t trust the doctor. I did. But I wasn’t about to jet off to Orlando without understanding what was going on.

So I went to Memphis.

After looking into my eye, they determined that something different was going on, that I was experiencing a Vitreous Hemorrhage.

No big deal, they said, It’ll reabsorb. Just stay off Space Mountain.

So off I went.

And just like magic, as I approached The Magic Kingdom I noticed something.

My vision was healed. Not completely of course, but it was back to where it was before the incident.

“Great!” I thought! “I won’t go on any rollercoasters, but at least I can see!”

I headed to city hall to pick up a DAS pass to help deal with my regular disability.

Everything was magical.

I experienced The Haunted Mansion.

I rode Splash Mountain.

I enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean.

I took a grand-circle tour on the railroad.

I met Mickey.

I saw Happily Ever After, the new fireworks show.

And for a few days, everything was perfect.

Unfortunately, everything would begin to unravel at Animal Kingdom.

After soaring on the back of a banshee and cruising down a bioluminescent river on the planet of Pandora, I sat down for dinner at Tiffins.

The meal was fantastic. However, over the next half hour, my vision would get blurry. Very blurry. I left the park in a rush and went to bed.

When I woke up, my left eye was completely black.

The nurse in Memphis calmed me down, saying it was just blood in the eye moving around. Every cast member went above and beyond.

That morning while speaking to the front desk, members of Bell Services offered to keep an eye out for me, and even to have a doctor brought in, or to take me to a specialist. I politely turned them down, having spoken with the nurse.

Later, cast members at Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party, literally held onto me to guide through a dark park to the very front of the viewing area. They offered to help before even hearing the full story.

The next day at The Haunted Mansion, a manager named Grant allowed me to experience my favorite attraction with a flashlight so I could see the intricately designed attraction – something I would do again on Saturday thanks to Alex in the Mansion foyer. She even let me borrow her personal flashlight that she had brought from home.

I would learn upon returning home that my eye had completely filled with blood and would require surgery. 

The surgery worked and I could see again.

The first question I asked my doctor was, “Can I ride a rollercoaster?”

He told me to wait a few weeks, but that yes, I could.

Four months later, I was back, riding Expedition Everest over and over, ecstatic and grateful.

A version of this story has previously appeared on Monorail News

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