Experiencing health anxiety in Walt Disney World

Getting health anxiety in Walt Disney World

Good morrow and welcome to my first blog post in months. I think it’s the first one I’ve written since pre-Florida last October, so it’s been a while.

I’ve talked before about living with health anxiety. It’s a weird beast. I can be walking down the street feeling absolutely fine when suddenly a little pain in my chest will cause me to immediately panic and convince myself I’m having a heart attack, completely ignoring the fact it was just a random pain that everyone gets every so often.

I can be at Valley Parade watching my beloved Bradford City come back from 1 nil down to go 2 – 1 up against Leeds Utd, one of our main rivals – rivals I hadn’t ever seen us beat in my lifetime – when whilst celebrating a magnificent James Hanson header, I start to feel breathless and convince myself I’m going to drop dead right there. Logically I know I’m breathless because I’d gone insane when the header hit the back of the net and jumped around like a mad man, but in the moment it doesn’t feel that way.

I can be in the happiest place in the world with my amazing wife Charlotte, with two weeks of magic ahead of us. Even with all this happiness going on I still managed to wake up and lose my shit to the point that Charlotte had to ring reception at All Star Sports and get them to call 911 because I was running around our room at 2.30am crying and convinced I was choking to death.

So what happened when my health anxiety flared up in Walt Disney World? Let’s go back to that day.

Wednesday 26thSeptember 2018

I was awake very early. Not unexpected considering we were due to fly to Orlando at 10:30am. An early start was always going to happen, but not this early. It was just past 4am and I was wide awake.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have an intense fear of flying that requires me to take medication to get through a flight. This used to mean weeks and weeks of panic and anxiety pre-flight but, like my overall anxiety to a degree, I’ve now mostly got it under control. On this trip, the nerves started only the day before the flight which is a huge improvement compared to mine and Charlottes first flight together a little over three years prior. I’m sure Charlotte can tell you I wasn’t the most fun be around before our first holiday together.

So I was laid in bed in our hotel at Manchester Airport with visions of plane crashes running through my head. I was up so early that I even had a little chat on Twitter with our friends Chris and Sarah who were enjoying their first night at Walt Disney World.

Whilst I was worrying about our plane smashing into the sea, I wasn’t overly panicked. Scared stiff? Yes, but not as bad as previously. I got no further sleep so when Charlotte woke up properly (I’m pretty sure I woke her a few times in the night shuffling around the room like a lunatic) I was very tired after only around four hours sleep.

So onto the airport we went. We had breakfast and I had a couple of pre-flight pints to settle my nerves, but the constant thinking about air disasters never stopped. Charlotte was incredible as always, constantly reassuring and always checking on me. 

We took off and it was the perfect take off in my book – we didn’t crash at least! I took a big sigh of relief and settled into the flight. Every so often Charlotte checked on me and said things like ‘good flight so far’. The nerves can make me a bit selfish and I snapped at her at one point to stop talking about it. It was a completely idiotic thing to do as she was just trying to help and I genuinely don’t think I could get through a flight without her. Which is interesting as I’m off to Benidorm in May on a stag do, that should be an interesting flight.

Anyway, I spent the next nine & a half hours thinking I was going to die every few minutes. I convinced myself that I was fine and would calm down only to have a fresh panic a few minutes later. I can’t explain how draining this is and a long haul flight really takes it out of me. It makes being awake for a 22 hour day feel more like a 40 hour day.

About halfway through the flight I started feeling a bit throaty. The flight in general was very smooth and I managed it without taking the medication I’d been prescribed. A few beers, a comforting wife and watching Titanic made it a somewhat easy flight.

Soon we had landed in Orlando. We passed through immigration, collected our cases and were on our way to Disney World. By this point I was feeling a bit chesty and my throat hurt but nothing too bad. Despite our minds and bodies telling us not to, we headed off into Magic Kingdom that evening. We had a fun couple of hours before tiredness won and we made our way back to the hotel.

A couple of hours later we were fast asleep in our wonderfully air conditioned room in a ridiculously small double bed.

Suddenly I woke up feeling like I was choking. The fear hit me straight away. What the hell was causing it? I quickly decided I must be in the process of vomiting so ran to the bathroom.

After a minute or so of heaving I realised it wasn’t vomit. Phlegm, it must have been phlegm. Right make yourself cough Carl. I’m coughing away and at this point I realised I’d woken Charlotte, and she was asking what’s wrong. Somewhere around this time I put my hand in my mouth still thinking its phlegm and try to pick it out. It won’t come out because it’s attached to me. If I told you some of the thoughts I came up with in the next five minutes or so you’d think I’d lost my mind and maybe I had for a while.

At this point I was barely able to get my words out, I was crying thinking this is it I’m dying on the first day of our holiday and I’m ruining Charlotte’s favourite place in the world for her. Charlotte doesn’t know I was thinking that – she will now as she edits my blog lol – but for a few minutes it’s all I could think about. I was ruining Orlando for Charlotte. 

Orlando is very special to Charlotte. It’s where she spent some of the happiest days of her life with her family and her father who passed away a few years ago. She holds so many memories from the trips. She even has a folder where she keeps mementos like park maps & tickets.

We had our honeymoon in Orlando which was the best two weeks of my life and here I was a year later, dying in a hotel room and forever spoiling Orlando for my incredible wife. I can’t explain how horrible I felt in that moment and adding that to the already existing feeling of panic I just totally lost my shit.

Charlotte was crying too. It breaks my heart to see her like this. She gets me to sit on the bed and calls down to reception who in turn ring 911 and within seconds a security guard is at the door, quickly followed by the paramedics and even the duty manager.

They check my vitals which were all clear. This calmed me a bit. They then asked me to explain what I was feeling. I won’t tell you what I said but I will say that the paramedic was pretty gobsmacked at what I thought was happening to me. It was simply ridiculous. They checked me out, checked my throat and managed to calm me down. They gave us the information for the local walk in emergency room called Centra Care that we could visit in the morning and told us there was a free shuttle that ran form Disney World. They advised me to sleep sitting up and then they were on their way.

At this point I have to say just how amazing everyone at Disney were. The reception staff, the security guard that responded first, the duty manager and the paramedics who were with me so quickly. Without the fast response my anxiety would have been even worse and who knows where that would have led us.

After they had gone Charlotte managed to convince me to get back into bed and sleep sat up. A few hours later and it was morning we were both incredibly tired after the long day of travelling and a night of very little sleep. We were up bright and early and down at reception by 7am.

Centra Care Orlando

Reception told us that the bus to Centra Care would be available at around 8:30am. The guy advised us to just get an Uber as it wasn’t that far away and that we could book an appointment online so we wouldn’t have to turn up and just wait.

We managed to get an appointment for 8:20, quickly googled the address and ordered an Uber. Half an hour later we were 20 miles in the wrong direction after a mix up (our fault) with the address. We – along with the incredible Uber driver – managed to locate the correct place and we finally arrived at around 8.45. The driver was lovely, totally understood our error and only charged us the original price we were quoted. He received a hefty tip from us I can assure you.

We walked into Centra Care and were handed some forms to fill in. For some odd reason this sent me into a panic, my hands were shaking so much I could barely write. My super Charl was right next to me helping to calm me down. I still can’t work out why filling the forms in set me off. It was a bit odd.

The place reminded me of Sacred Heart the hospital from the legendary comedy series Scrubs. Not in appearance as it couldn’t be more different but more the talk about money, the first thing they said to us was ‘do you have insurance?’ and it made it a surreal experience. We’re so lucky to have the NHS over here but I’ll talk a bit more about my thoughts on that later.

We handed the forms in and I was called in to see a nurse. I was weighed, measured and had my vitals checked and was asked to sit on a bed to wait to see the doctor. The nurse was a lovely lady and genuinely seemed interested in why we were in Orlando. We had a five minute conversation about Disney which totally put me at ease. I’d left Charlotte in the waiting room as I thought I’d be checked then sent back into the waiting area like when you go to a&e back home. So was surprised to be left to a bed and asked to wait.

I text charlotte to let her know what was going on. I started to get a little worked up again at this point but soon enough the doctor turned up – gee were they quick. The doctor was a lovely lady. She was about 70 and totally reminded me of Dr Kelso from Scrubs. Well a female version at least. She won my heart immediately by mocking me for getting poorly on the first day of our holiday. We had a proper good chinwag and again she put me at ease.

I told her the tale from the night before and then she put this stick in my mouth, told me to say ‘ahhh’ and quickly told me I had an infection called Strep Throat and that my uvula was four times bigger than it should have been. She explained that this is what caused the choking feeling whilst laying down. She prescribed me two types of antibiotics. One of them to be taken once a day for five days and one to taken two times a day for 10 days.

It was the first day of our holiday so you might be able to guess what my next question was…can I drink alcohol? Yes she said, just don’t go on a binge whilst taking the five day dose of antibiotics. Food and wine with Chris and Sarah was six days away, so I was happy with that.

She warned me that the weather was hotter than normal for September and that the heat index was over 100 degrees so to drink plenty of water. With that we said farewell and I just had to wait for the meds.

I don’t know if it was relief that there was actually something wrong with me for a change, the fact that I’d ruined the start of our holiday for Charlotte or maybe just the tiredness but I spent the next five minutes crying to myself. It made me feel a lot better. I got Charlotte to come in while I waiting for the meds, once received, we headed back to the reception to pay the bill. $300+ dollars later we got in a taxi back to WDW. We had some breakfast then went back to the room for a somewhat long nap.

After waking up we headed to Epcot to start our Holiday and it was still a tremendous day.

You’ll be happy you know that by the time Food and Wine came around I was well enough to drink my way around the world and have one of my favourite ever days.

So that is how it went down. I can’t thank everyone we encountered enough. Every single person was incredible.

Getting sick on holiday sucks, getting sick at Walt Disney World sucks even more but knowing they have a system in place is brilliant. 

The details for the Centre Care near Disney Springs is below if you are ever unfortunate to need it.

Centra Care – 12500 S Apopka Vineland Rd, Orlando, FL 32836, USA – +1 407-934-2273 – Open 8am – 12am

All that’s left to say is until next time keep smiling,

Oh and don’t forget your travel insurance.

Carl

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