The time my mom faked a heart attack at Disneyland

Recently, my sister and I took my daughter on a secret trip to Disneyland. This was not Lily’s first trip. This was a way to make-up for the first trip which went horribly badly.

Disneyland has a special place in my family’s heart and for my three-year-old’s first trip everyone wanted to be there.In the weeks leading up to the big trip there was a flurry of emails from various family members stating their needs, wants and various demands. I didn’t worry too much. I knew it would be a difficult trip with so many people going, including two elderly parents, one toddler and one disabled sister. I knew drama would be on the menu.

A few days before the trip, my mother tells me she’s been having chest pains. It didn’t appear to be a heart attack, but the doctor recommended she not go on the trip. Well, she had no intention of listening to him and stated so quite firmly. Stubbornness runs in my mother’s side of the family – my grandmother once drove herself to the hospital while having a major heart attack. So, I sighed and after a quick family powwow we decided that my mom could go if she used a wheelchair. But in the back of everyone’s mind was the question: Are we doing the right thing? Should we just cancel the trip and wait until she is in better health?

We knew we should, but we’d been looking forward to this trip for too many years.

The first thing we upon arrival was rent a wheelchair. My mom sat down on it and promptly started crying. She was upset about the hardship she was placing on us. My mother is not an overly emotional person, so it was startling to see her tears. We reminded her that all we cared about was her health and couldn’t give a fig about pushing her around. Unfortunately, it turned out to be nearly 100 degrees in Anaheim that day and everyone was especially hot and miserable. But we persevered and made it through the day.

My daughter was quiet for most of the day, despite everyone incessantly asking her “Are you having fun?” “Did you like that ride?” etc. She just looked around with her big eyes, taking it in in awed silence. She ended up falling asleep early and I somehow got stuck taking her to the hotel by myself which sucked a lot thanks to a group of women who didn’t want to share their tram seats with me, an unconscious toddler, a stroller, and a huge backpack. I was freaking out until another woman helped me by grabbing my stroller and yelling “get in there!” I obeyed, bitches be damned.

The next day was just as hot, but half of our group went home so it was a bit more relaxed. We spent the day at California Adventure and my mother was in good spirits. That night we took a long drive that nearly ended up in the desert as we looked for a restaurant. We ended up turning around and eating at Mimi’s Café. I glared angrily at my mother as she ate a greasy hamburger instead of something healthy.

That night my phone rang at 1:30 in the morning. I never sleep with my phone on but my spidey senses were tingling ever since my mom told me about her chest pains. I jumped out of bed and immediately answered the phone.

“Help! Help! Help!” My mom shouted. “I’m having chest pains, Dad called for an ambulance.”

I grabbed my things and raced down the stairs. I put on my calm demeanor and entered their room. My mom was laying down on the bed while my dad slowly put himself together. At this point I should mention that one of my dad’s peccadillo’s is that you cannot rush him for anything. Ever. Even if someone has died. For instance, my grandmother died and my mom was desperate to get to her house. We just left him behind to get his OCD shit together. Fortunately, on this night he had his shit together by the time the hotel employee arrived with a wheelchair.

Later on, I asked one of the EMTs if he thought my mother was having a heart attack. He looked at me discreetly and shook his head.

We spent the entire next day at the UC Irvine hospital. I had a reservation that morning for my daughter and myself at Goofy’s Kitchen and it broke my heart to tell my husband to take her. I wanted to be there to see the look on her face when the characters appeared. Instead, my husband sent me pictures and I had to go to the bathroom to cry my eyes out. I would be completely absent from her special memory of Disneyland.

I had a constant flow of self-talk with myself that day so as not to get angry with my mother, who was clearly not having a heart attack.

It’s not her fault, I told myself.

But she refuses to take care of herself, despite a family history of heart disease. My inner bitch argued back.

She’s not doing it on purpose. These things are going to happen. Face it, you are going to miss out on some big moments of Lily’s life.

But I’ve been looking forward to this since before she was born!

Welcome to parenthood. Now suck it up. Besides, no trip to Disneyland is complete without some sort of drama.


I felt like a bad person for getting upset with my mom. The self talk continued and I kept telling myself not to be an asshole and keep supporting my mom. I’ll be honest though, I’m not the best person to handle these situations. I’m impatient, judgmental and have a low tolerance for frustration. You know, the main qualities you need as an adult. Either of my sisters would have been a much better choice. But they were gone and I was the one there.

My mother took numerous tests that day, but the only firm conclusion was that it was definitely not a heart attack. It was most likely acid reflux. We had one more day before going home and I told my mom to spend it in bed reading and relaxing. Instead, she went with my husband and father on a trip to L.A. while I took Lily to the park by myself.

This is why my sister and I took Lily back to Disneyland three months later without telling anyone but my husband. The trip was much shorter than our previous one, but it was infinitely better and more relaxed. We will certainly be taking many more trips back to Anaheim, but hopefully none will be as memorable as her first.


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