My daughter invited me (read: begged me) to go to Canada’s Wonderland with her because a friend wasn’t able to go. Let me say that I haven’t been to Wonderland in maybe…. 20 years, which means that I’ve never been on any of the large rides that she loves to go on.
In this post, I’ll be detailing my experience of going to an amusement park (and the rides!) with an ostomy.
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My 1st Visit in Over 20 Years!
Our first visit consisted of 4 rides (3 large roller coasters) and a drop tower ride, although I’ve been on over 60 rides in a single afternoon (yes, sixty!). The coasters we ended up on were Leviathan, Behemoth and the Mighty Canadian Minebuster. I made it clear that there would be no upside-down coasters or spinning rides on this visit, since I honestly didn’t know how my stomach would handle those types of rides.
We stayed about two hours before my nausea got bad and my daughter’s sore feet had enough (she totally wore the wrong type of shoes for this visit). I would have loved to have stayed longer and pace the rides out, but my drive was over an hour each way, and I don’t do well on long drives because of fatigue.
My Rides and Records
DO THIS! Disability Access Pass
Check with your local amusement park to see if they offer a Boarding pass, Equal Access pass or Disability pass. Chances are, they do, and it should cover ostomates. Here’s a quick video explaining the process:
Here are a list of concerns that I had anticipated before going, along with how things actually went down. I would imagine that my experience would be similar to the experience of most other ostomates who have a properly managed stoma.
Any time I’m out of the house, and I expect to be doing a lot of walking, hydration is my top concern. Things really go downhill once dehydration starts, so I wasn’t sure how I’d get on with being under the sun with all that excitement – the temperature reached 29 Celsius that day. And you thought that we shoveled snow all year, eh?
I usually start drinking a home-made electrolyte mixture right up until I enter the park. I figure if I could load up on electrolytes and fluids, I’ll have a better chance of staying hydrated when I’m in the park.
While there are plenty of vending machines, restaurants and food vendors at the park, they usually sell soft drinks. I always bring bottled water (which is permitted) but have also been using a backpack that features a 2L hydration bladder that I can take sips from throughout my day.
I’ve been using the Teton Oasis 1100, which I purchased through Amazon, but there are several brands and styles of hydration packs to choose from, and they are quite convenient for hiking too.
In addition to the water I keep while I’m walking around, I also keep V8 and either a sports drink or my pre-made electrolyte drink in the car (in an iced cooler). Going back to the car to refuel with these drinks can really help to extend the time I’m at the park.
Having never been on these rides before, I had no idea what kind of harness or seatbelt I’d face until I actually sat in one. It seems that every ride has a two-stage system: a seatbelt and either a lap bar or harness; None of the seatbelts came over my stoma, but the lap bar did.
I anticipated that I’d have to protect my stoma from impact before I left, so I put on the Ostomy Resolutions Stoma Guard for assurance – and I’m glad that I did!
One ride in particular, the Mighty Canadian Minebuster, was a VERY aggressive wood coaster, and I slammed into the lap bar several times throughout the ride. I have no doubt that I would have injured myself had I not been wearing the stoma guard.
Canada’s Wonderland does give a detailed guide about their rides, safety considerations and warnings (found HERE). Check with your local amusement park to read the warnings that are specific to your rides.
One very popular coaster manufacturer is Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M). They make Behemoth and Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland, but also many popular rides like Valravn (Cedar Point), Fury 325 (Carowinds), and Mako (SeaWorld Orlando). The seat harness on many B&M coasters are called “clam shell” restraints, and they allow for plenty of room for your stoma.
This photo below shows just how much of a gap there is between the harness and my stomach. I tend to also put my bag above/over the seat belt in rides using this seating system.
I did not have to empty my pouch while at the park I’ve had to empty my pouch several times in one visit, but bathroom access was everywhere.
The problem with public washrooms is that they are often dirty and feature some of the worst toilet paper imaginable. One trick I use is to rip several, one-foot lengths of toilet paper, and either set it on my leg (if I’m kneeling) or hang it out of my pocket (if I’m squatting over the toilet). That offers easier access to toilet paper, instead of fighting with the dispenser.
More often than not, my pouch will fill about 1/4 of the way before we leave the park, but that’s not an issue with many of the rides. I will admit that I don’t eat on the morning I visit the park since I know that eating will make my stoma more active; this isn’t something that I’d advocate doing often, but it is a trick that I’ve used on several occasions. One warning though: for some people, skipping meals will increase gas in the pouch.
Would People Stare?
I wasn’t concerned about people noticing my ostomy appliance, but I know that some people are self-conscious about it. I didn’t notice anyone paying any attention to my appliance, but it was pretty well hidden under my t-shirt. I didn’t let my pouch hang down all the way, and instead, I tucked the outlet part into my pant waist; This worked out well and didn’t cause me any trouble at all.
If you’re one to be more open to talking about your ostomy, try going with an ostomy awareness shirt! I wore my “No Colon, Still Rollin” shirt, and had several people ask me about it. It’s a great way to start a conversation while waiting in line!
Did My Ostomy Interfere With Any of the Rides?
Nope, not at all. The only stuff that interfered with a few situations were my keys, smartphone and snack bars I had in my shorts.
There was a large, free-fall swing called the Xtreme Skyflyer that you’d need to ride face down, and I can only imagine that a stoma guard would be HIGHLY advised for that type of ride.
I did consider that being tossed about on a roller coaster going 148km/h could cause a leak, so I brought my travel kit, but kept it in an insulated bag in my car. I did change my pouch with a fresh one, since my old filter wasn’t working (was on day 2 of my appliance) and I didn’t want ballooning to be an issue.
Had I chosen to take my travel kit into the park, there were places to put things like purses or backpacks at each ride, so this wouldn’t have been a problem; it would have been a little inconvenient, though.
There is a concern about your pouch getting full before/during a ride, and that could be a very real problem for someone with a high-output ostomy. I was quite fortunate that the lineups were short, but you could be waiting in line for over an hour when it gets busy. There isn’t much you can do if you’re already on a ride, but if this was a regular challenge, I’d reconsider the type of rides I was going on (i.e. no upside-down coasters).
Things I’d Do Differently
Other than be more selective about the rides I decide to go on, there’s very little I’d change for the next visit.
I will be getting a Boarding Pass every time I go, and I highly recommend that all ostomates check with their local park to see if they offer something similar.
I’m happy that I had no trouble being there with an ostomy, and I would encourage anyone to visit an amusement park if that’s their thing.
Here are some suggestions that I find really make these trips a lot more fun!
- Bring a hat! Perhaps not a problem for ladies, but it took coming home one time with a red scalp for me to learn this lesson!
- Sunscreen. Always. I go with a mineral base since they tend to be safer and work very well.
- Take the glasses off. I’ve been on several rides with my sunglasses on, but there are some aggressive rides that I just don’t feel comfortable wearing them (or losing them!) on the ride.
- Wear comfortable shoes. I walked over 20km at the park in a single day, and I was fortunate to be wearing my good walking shoes. Don’t go with anything that’ll be uncomfortable for long walks OR anything that’ll fall off your feet during a ride (you do have an option to remove your shoes at many, but not all, of these rides).
- Snack bars work great. I’m not keen about having a large meal before hitting some of these rides, but I’ve had no trouble eating a Clif Bar (or any other high-calorie, light snack) before riding. If you’ve got a funny stomach, eat a small snack and keep the meals for when you get home!
- Use a “Fast Lane Pass” if available. Some parks offer special, paid passes that allow anyone to get on select rides without waiting in line. Unlike with the boarding pass mentioned above, there is no virtual queue, but Fast Lane passes only last the duration of the day (then you need to purchase another one on your next visit). I’ve been able to use a Fast Lane Pass at Canada’s Wonderland to go on a total of over 60 rides in a single day, which is more than double what I’d get, even with a boarding pass. If you can afford it, it’s worth the money.
BONUS: Ride Tips!
Here are some tips I can offer for general ride enjoyment. Please enjoy rides in a way that YOU feel comfortable with.
I love coasters, but there are many ways to ride them!
General Coaster Tips
- The front of the coaster will give you a great view, but a slightly slower ride. Some coasters, like Leviathan, are really windy at the front.
- The middle of a coaster is often the best place for newbies to start, since the view isn’t too overwhelming, and the speed/force is “just-right”
- The back of the coaster gives you the best air-time and g-force, especially on big hills and drops. It can be a bit violent, so use caution if you’re prone to injury.
- Arms up! Truly the most exciting way to experience most coasters is with your hands up. This works best on coasters that do NOT have inversions, and it often helps to increase the air time on drops.
- No loose items! Seriously, empty your pockets before riding. My friend, and daughter were both hit by an iPhone while riding a coaster that goes 148km/h! That could have caused some very serious injuries.
Steel coasters are my favorite, but they can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, so it’s hard to give general rules for all steel coasters.
- Inverted coasters tend to hurt a bit. Coasters with loops and corkscrews tend to be harder on your neck than other rides. Be careful.
- Be a leader! When I ride the front seat of a large coaster, I feel like it’s my duty to show some excitement, so I get my arms up well before the first drop and often let out a battle-cry!
- Tighten you lab bar while going up! On large coasters, I can often tighten the lap bar one more click while going up the first hill.
I tend to avoid wooden coasters because they are known for their instability and injury-inducing shakes. But when I do ride…
- Ride the front! I find that the very front seat of a wooden coaster will give the “smoothest” ride.
- Hold on! While I love riding with my arms up, I hold on for dear life while riding wooden coasters. The shaking makes it really easy to get hurt.
- Don’t tighten up your body. This point is CRUCIAL for a safe ride. When you tense up, you’re more prone to injury, and the only part of my body that I allow to be tense are my arms (where I’m holding onto the support bars.
I tend to hesitate when it comes to riding new spinning rides because I don’t know how nauseated it might make me. Provided I’m not going on the same ride back to back to back, I’m good to go on basically any spinning ride.
- Keep your eyes open! Closing your eyes will make dizziness a lot worse.
- Focus on an object far away! This can help reduce dizziness.
- Consider anti-nausea meds! I recommend this with caution, as they could make you drowsy.
- Try non-medicated anti-nausea remedies! From Sea-Bands to Ginger, you might want to experiment with a few of these if you don’t feel comfortable taking medication.
Drop Tower Rides
Having been on the Drop Tower 49 times in a single day, I’m pretty much a Grandmaster. I have found ways to make this ride more enjoyable:
- Get those hands up! While you might feel more secure holding onto the harness, this ride is best enjoyed with your hands up, where it gives you more of a “free-fall” feeling.
- Find the best view! At Canada’s Wonderland, you can get a great view of Toronto by sitting on the #4 seat. Depending on where you live, try to find out what seat will give you the best view; you might like to see the entire park or a local city. Just remember that you are often assigned seating before getting on, so ASK the ride attendant for the spot you’d like.
- Find the shade! If you’re on this ride during a hot, sunny day, you may not want to face the sun. Because this is basically a large sundial, see which seats offer the best shade.
- Wear Sunglasses! If shade isn’t an option, you should be fine wearing sunglasses on this ride. I’ve worn both regular and prescription sunglasses without any trouble at all.
This was experience brought about many firsts for me, but I’m glad I was able to go without any trouble. I’ve since been at the park many times and I’m really enjoying the rides.
Amusement parks and large rides aren’t for everyone, but it’s not something I’d avoid because of my ostomy. You should exercise caution if you’re recently out of surgery or have other problems, such as ongoing inflammation or bowel trouble, but for the most part it won’t take much planning to get out there.