Guest Post: Rick Phillips – Diagnosis & Disney

Image of Rick Phillips
Rick Phillips

First, let me extend a thank you to Scott for allowing me to borrow this space. It is a privilege to be asked to fill in with a blog post while he is busy working. I normally blog at and lately I have opened a blogging effort at focusing on issues that are intertwined between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Type 1 Diabetes. As a person who is ‘blessed’ (I use that term loosely) with both conditions, I am looking forward to exploring  the intersection of the diseases.  Since I am hopeful that Scott will allow me to blog in the future (editors note: of course!), I thought I would tell you my diabetes diagnosis story. I hope you find my story meaningful (I know it is meaningful to me and perhaps you will get a chuckle)

Traveling South

A young Rick Phillips (not really...) :-)
A young Rick Phillips (not really…) 🙂

To set the stages please understand these events all occurred in June of 1974. I was 16 years old and thinking a lot about what young men think of at the age of 16. I mean studying of course (I am sure that is what you were thinking about when you were 16 correct?).

In addition I was also thinking of going to Disney World for the first time. In 1974 that was a pretty big deal. Unlike today when families go as a matter of course; in 1974 it was a special trip.

So we piled in the car (all 3 of us I was an only child) and started the drive from Indiana to Orlando. Saying piled means I stretched out in the back seat of an Oldsmobile Delta 88 the size of a battleship and treated it like my living room.

Image of an Oldsmobile Delta '88
The Green Delta ’88

On the drive south my Dad was very interested in me driving. I had recently obtained an Indiana Beginners Permit and my Dad decided I needed to practice driving at high speed on the Interstate.

Given that I had never driven on an Interstate, it seemed like a really good idea to my Dad so he insisted I keep up with traffic (meaning going 95 MPH). I was a kid steering a green Delta ’88 rocket with the three of us and all our meaningful possessions (minus my 200 record albums) down the road to Florida.

Suggesting that perhaps rush hour through Louisville was not a good place for an inexperienced driver only made my Father more resolved to make me do it.  By the time I got through Louisville I was absolutely terrified, I had been lost 4 times and my Dad was yelling at my incompetence.

Mom could not see so well so she sat in the back reassuring my Dad I knew how to drive. Saying I could drive was a point I disagreed with her about. What I knew was that going 95 MPH with only a Beginner Permit through Tennessee was a really bad idea. The drive took 2 days and my Dad claimed he was exhausted and he wanted to leave immediately to beat traffic on the way home.

For as long I as I could remember, my Dad had been trying to beat traffic. He refused to go places because of traffic. We left places early to beat traffic. We even got into traffic to beat traffic.  Once in Detroit he went to Sarnia ON to Windsor ON to beat traffic at the Detroit Border crossing (a detour of 226 miles one way).

Disney World

Walt Disney World Resort
Paradise, right?

Then the big day arrived and we finally got to Walt Disney World. I was cautioned before going in the park entrance not to ask for anything because our money was tight (it wasn’t but that was the customary caution from my Dad upon entering most anywhere).

Once inside the park and about midday on the first of 3 planned days, I started drinking. Well to put it more accurately I started my new project which was the only travel blog devoted to the drink stands and men’s rooms in the Magic Kingdom.

I know you may think it an exaggeration but I was spending so much time at the men’s room that I was actually thinking of how to organize lines. That was even odder because there were no lines. As far as the drink stand, the guys in the Tomorrow Land concessions offered me free refills.

As such, I gave them 4 stars in the planned visitors guide to Disney World.

After the first day my parents knew there was something wrong and with my mother being a type 1 Diabetic she suspected I was developing Diabetes. Mid-day of day two I took my first urine test.

By the end of the day my parents decided it was time to break off the vacation and get home as soon as possible. On day 3 we went to the Gulf Coast to visit a restaurant my mom wanted to try (I still find  it difficult to believe that with a sick kid you would take a day to go to a restaurant).

On day 4 in Florida the car was turned north and we were retracing our path toward home. Then two days later we arrived home and the next day I found myself in the hospital receiving insulin.


On my first day in the hospital the hospital staff brought me the infamous orange, I ate it. I was really hungry and that orange looked so good. The same thing occurred on day 2 and day 3.

Each day the ward nurse would come to my room with my insulin and ask if I had practiced injections. I would truthfully answer no and she would go get me an orange and a new syringe with saline I would wait until she left, peel it, eat it and dispose of the evidence and the syringe elsewhere on the floor.

On day 4 of my hospital stay she no longer asked if I had practiced. She brought the needle and said the day had arrived to demonstrate what I had learned. I gave my first injection and of course now (for the past 12 years) I wear a pump so I no longer give injections. But almost every day since that morning in the hospital I have thought of that nurse and the frown on her face.

Knowing I had not practiced and waiting for me to cry she gave me the needle; so I set my jaw and stuck it in. She looked disappointed that I did it. I think in her world making non-compliant teenagers suffer was fun.

Moral of the story

Of course my story has numerous themes. First, when you are really hungry those hospital oranges taste pretty good. I was really hungry. The angry nurse be damned, never leave a hungry diabetic in the room with an orange by his self.

In total, I have visited Disney World 4 times. The second time I lost the car and searched for 2 hours in the Epcot Center Parking lot, finding it at 2 AM. My children, wife and Disney World employees were not amused.

The second time the Hotel had a fire alarm and everyone had to leave their rooms at about 1 AM. Apparently the power had gone out when the alarm went off and I was left searching in the darkness for my insulin, low coverage items and Glucometer.

The third time I stayed at the Contemporary Hotel but never visited the park.

On the fourth visit, things went just fine but of course I was always on my guard for a pending disaster.

The overarching theme of my story is that Disney World is not always the happiest place on earth. Further proof is that I have met three people who all became ill at Disney Parks and that illness turned into diabetes (one in California, One in Disneyland France and of course myself).

Together we have decided that Disney Parks may not be our best place for our vacation.

Next time I am going to Universal Studios.

Disneyland Sign

Thank you, Rick! That was a fun story! I had a big grin on my face many times as I read your tale!

It’s an honor to share your diagnosis story here, and I’m happy to have you back anytime you’d like. 

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Scott K. Johnson

Patient voice, speaker, writer, and advocate. Living life with diabetes and telling my story. All opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent the position of my employer.

Diagnosed in April of 1980, I recognize the incredible mental struggle of living with diabetes. Read more…