A lawsuit filed earlier this month details a guest’s devastating internal injuries she claims were sustained as she enjoyed an attraction at Disney World. Now medical experts are verifying the occurrence of such injuries, some of which can result in fatal complications.
Not Telling the Whole Story
Various media outlets have reported on the story of a young woman who filed a lawsuit against Disney after visiting the Walt Disney World Resort and being subjected to a painful wedgie while riding an attraction. But many outlets have yet to report on the extent of the injuries the young woman received–injuries that are hardly described as a “wedgie” and that, in some cases, can lead to complications that can be fatal.
In 2019, Emma McGuinness and her husband Edward visited Disney World to celebrate her 30th birthday. While they were there, the couple planned to spend a day at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park. During their visit to the water park, McGuinness decided to take in a guest-favorite attraction, and doing so left her with disastrous injuries, according to court documents.
The Culprit: A Disney Water Slide Attraction
According to a lawsuit filed in Orange County, Florida, McGuinness incurred severe injuries from riding a water slide attraction at Disney World’s Typhoon Lagoon water park.
The attraction, called the Humunga Kowabunga, is a water slide that requires that guests climb up several flights of stairs to a platform where a cast member awaits to help guests get into position for the five-story drop they experience as part of the attraction. Once a guest is seated in the water at the top of the slide, the cast member instructs them to cross their legs at the ankles. Guests must also cross their arms over their chest before sliding.
Disney World’s official website invites Guests to “plummet down Mount Mayday for a near-vertical, five-story drop in the dark” at the attraction. The water slide is 214 feet in length, and according to court documents, guests can briefly reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour while on the slide.
Court documents state that riders are told to cross their ankles by cast members but that they are not told why it’s important to do so. McGuinness says she did as she was instructed, but near the end of the slide, she became airborne and was “slammed downward” against the slide, causing her legs to become uncrossed.
“The impact of the slide and her impact into the standing water at the bottom of the slide caused Ms. McGuinness’s clothing to be painfully forced between her legs and for water to be violently forced inside her,” the complaint said.
Serious Injuries Requiring Transport to A Second Hospital
McGuinness wore a one-piece swimsuit during her visit to Typhoon Lagoon, and as soon as she came up from the pool at the bottom of the slide, she experienced “immediate and severe pain internally” and began to bleed, per the complaint. The young woman was transported to a local hospital by ambulance and was transferred to another facility for “the repair of her gynecological injuries.”
According to Alan Wagner, an attorney representing McGuinness, the injuries associated with her time at Typhoon Lagoon included full-thickness vaginal laceration and an arterial bleed.
“Given its experience and expertise in thrill rides, it is hard to imagine that Disney did not know that water slides like its Humunga Kowabunga could hurt people and expose women, in particular, to painful and permanent injuries to their genitalia and internal organs,” Wagner said in an email.
In the complaint filed in Orange County, McGuinness alleges that Disney was negligent and ultimately “breached its duties of reasonable care owed to Ms. McGuinness” by not offering her and other guests some type of protective clothing that could have prevented her injuries. The complaint also finds fault with Disney for failing to warn the guest about the dangers she could face on the water slide attraction and for not maintaining the slide in an effort to keep guests from becoming airborne on the way to the lane pool below.
Further details in the complaint show that the presence of water rushing toward her, coupled with “an injurious wedgie,” resulted in severe lacerations in McGuiness’s vaginal tissue that caused her intestines to bulge from her abdominal cavity.
“Because of their particular anatomy, and as a consequence of the type of swimwear women frequently wear, the risk of water being forced inside their body is greater than it is for men,” the lawsuit reads. “Ms. McGuinness [who was wearing a one-piece bathing suit] was not warned that she was at an increased risk of injury because of her gender or the clothes that she wore.”
Such injuries–though rare–are not unheard of, according to gynecologists who have weighed in on the matter. Because of their anatomy, females are at a higher risk for such injuries, and McGuinness isn’t the first female to experience these devastating injuries.
Dr. Mary Claire Haver, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Mary Claire Wellness in Friendswood, Texas, says she has experience working at a hospital close to a water park. During her tenure at the hospital, she treated patients with similar injuries every summer. Dr. Haver says she once had to treat a child with a water slide-induced vaginal laceration that was as significant as the ones sustained by McGuinness.
“The water acts like a surgical knife and cuts open the walls of [the female tissue],” Haver said. “These injuries are rare, but they happen and can be devastating.”
Dr. Allison Rodgers, an OB-GYN and reproductive endocrinologist at Fertility Centers of Illinois, says that “if something hits [the tissue] the wrong way, a female could have a really serious injury.”
Possible complications include infections in the fallopian tubes and ovaries, perineal tears, or gangrene, a potentially fatal condition that happens when blood supply is cut off from portions of the intestines. The type of water that enters your body could also influence what kind of bacteria floods your system, potentially putting you at increased risk for more serious illness, said Dr. Rodgers, adding that chlorinated water in pools isn’t necessarily sterile.
Jetskis, waterskis, hoses, and fountains have all been documented to cause similar injuries, according to a 2018 review published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada.
Though the McGuinesses’s visit was in 2019, the couple just filed their lawsuit last week. The couple is seeking more than $50,000 in the suit. As of the time of this post, Disney has issued no comment in response to the complaint.