My TSA Experience

I posted this on a big aviation website that I read. I figured I’d repost it here.

Some background – I am a type 1 diabetic, and to treat that condition, I wear an insulin pump, which is a little machine that is plugged into the side of me and literally keeps me alive. I wear this 24/7. In the past when I have flown it has usually not been an issue. The agents sometimes notice it, sometimes don’t, but almost never make an issue about it, and have always known what it is when mentioned, so I’m assumed that they are trained about this.

Anyway, I was flying home from San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, a few days after the new procedures went into place, and I was slightly nervous because I wasn’t sure how they would affect me and my situation. When I got to the security area I was very up front with them, showed them my insulin pump, and they seemed confused. I was put through the backscatter machine, while holding my insulin pump in my hand, and was then held while the TSA agents went off and discussed my situation. After a few minutes they came over, and I overheard them saying that everything checked out fine on me, but then they took me aside where I got the “enhanced pat down.” Then they also did the swab test on my insulin pump, and everything checked out and I was sent on my way.

This got me to thinking, though. Am I going to always be subjected to the “enhanced pat down” because of my medical device? I don’t even so much object to the backscatter x-ray machines, and I don’t have any problem with them doing the swab on the device. So I did some research and talked to other people with the insulin pumps who have also flown, and they have had to deal with the same thing I did. One lady was even told by a TSA supervisor that if you have a medical device like an insulin pump, you have to go through the “enhanced pat down”. No choice.

I’m really bothered by this, for multiple reasons. One, they clearly said that they saw nothing was wrong, and still submitted me to the “enhanced pat down”, even though it seems to me like at that point checking my insulin pump to make sure it was real would have been fine. I also think it is pretty wrong to single out a group of people, specifically those with a form of disability, and make them go through something that is pretty unpleasant and demeaning. I’m not someone opting out of the scanner for some reason. I’m being told that the scanner is not an option for me no matter what. I have no choice.

And finally, I can’t take off the pump and run it through the flatbed xray because it is not certified for that. If something were to get messed up in it from some errant x-rays, I could die. And I would still have part of the apparatus connected to me that would show up in the backscatter scanner.

Anyway, I don’t know if this is going to do any good, but I feel like it is a part of the conversation that has been largely missed.

One Reply to “My TSA Experience”

  1. Anecdote: Last week, my family had to get to Florida for a funeral. My husband and my brother’s fiancee (a really good friend) are both type 1, both have the same pumps. We were on the same flight out of a small airport (no backscatter).

    She tells them she has a pump, it doesn’t go off, but she has to get a second scan or patdown. She later tells me that this happens EVERY time she flies, no exceptions.

    My husband, doesn’t tell them he’s got a pump and gets through without a hitch. Not a second glance.

    Something seems off there. All the variables are controlled. Same pump, same day, same TSA. But she’s pulled aside and my husband isn’t. I can’t help but think it’s also being female.

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