Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Don't BullSh*t Me Or My Insulin Pump, Mr. TSA Man At San Diego Airport!

Saturday morning came to soon for me as I my taxi made it’s way from The Hard Rock Hotel To San Diego’s Airport. It had been an amazing and jam packed three days at The 2011 Roche Social Media Summit and I didn’t want to leave.

Plus, I was tired, and the very thought of an almost 6 hour flight made me queasy - As did the thought of traveling with diabetes & previous TSA encounters.

I checked my bags and received my boarding pass at curbside check-in, and then I dragged my feet and carry-on over to security and mentally tried to prepare myself for the whole insulin pump TSA interrogation that would most certainly occur.

Just one day earlier on Friday, as the Roche Social Media Summit was in it’s last hour, I re-tweeted the following tweet:

@diabetesalic SHAMEFUL RT @hrana Elderly woman asked 2remove adult diaper during #TSA search - Absolutely unacceptable behavior by TSA

The story of that poor woman, whose only crimes were her advanced age & declining health had me sick to my stomach. It made me think about my mother's fragile health and my own “insulin pump/TSA issues.”

And it made me angry! As I stood in line preparing myself mentally to be interrogated, it was that poor woman I was thinking of.

I was surprised how quick my turn came up and I put my shoes, laptop, carry-on, etc .in bins & then onto a conveyor belt. Then I walked through the security gate thing, and was immediately pulled over.

TSA Dude: IS that an insulin pump

Me: Yes it is.

TSA Dude: Well, you know I’m going to have to get a female security to give you a pat-down.

Me: Um, no you’re not. My pump (a 512 medtronic minimed - yes, you read right, a 512- YES, I suffer from Insulin Pump Purchase Anxiety ) has no metal parts so there’s no reason for a pat down. And even if it did have metal parts, it's still ridiculous & goes against my civil rights under the American With Disabilities Act.

Feel free to swab the pump and my hands, like they do at every other airport in the country, but you’re not patting me down.

TSA Dude then began to have a series of powwows with 3 different TSA employees regarding the best way to handle my insulin- pump contraband.

TSA Dude: Well...... You can have the female security pat you down.....or you can walk through the full body scanner.

Me: She's not patting me down and I’m not walking through the full metal body scanner.

  1. If it damages my pump in anyway - I’m screwed.
  2. I don’t need to give a free peep show. If you’re going to see all my lucky charms - so to speak, then you can buy me dinner first!

TSA Dude: You can’t see anything. FYI, he sounded both annoyed & hurt at that accusation.

Me: Yeah, actually you can.

God, I only wish I’d read THIS article before our exchange, because then I could have mentioned TSA Dude's co-worker’s unfortunate genitalia size and the fact that yes, you can indeed see EVERYTHING.

Then TSA Dude had me go over to the side, and then TSA Dude proceeded to swab my hands & my insulin pump, and then he told me I could retrieve my things.

Me: So, we’re done, then?

TSA Dude: Yeah, it’s just next time you should really just go through the full body scanner - It's easier for everyone.

Me: It's not easier for me!

At that point, I could either continue arguing my point & continue to prove him wrong, (but as far as I was concerned, I'd won) or I could get my things and grab a much needed cup of coffee.

I walked away and started to retrieve my things from the conveyor belt - Then, I noticed the woman who had been behind me in line had been pulled aside for her medical device. This woman, a breast cancer survivor who no longer had any lymph-nodes on her right side, was wearing a compression device so her arm wouldn’t swell up.

This was apparently the first time she’d ever experienced the TSA welcome wagon & she was scared & annoyed.

I heard her say to the TSA Chick: Look, I’m not going through the full body scanner with this and you’re not patting me down.

I’m going to assume that there was no metal parts, because TSA Chick ended up swabbing the device & the woman it was attached to.

When Survivor Woman’s ordeal was done, she and I looked at one another as we put our shoes on and said: You deal with this every time you travel?

Me: Yep, 9 times out of 10 - And it’s bullshit! My guy didn’t even know the rules and he was literally making them up as he was going along!

Survivor Woman: They have to figure this out!

Me: Agreed & no shit - This is ridiculous! I’m all for safety, but I’m also for respecting the person who medically needs assistance. Making an elderly woman remove her diaper & giving those of us with medical devices so much crap is WRONG.

Seriously TSA, if you want your jobs to be easier, respect the people who you are both protecting and interrogating - We are one in the same after all! And for god-sakes TSA, know the rules of engagement!


Sara said...

When I went to Missouri recently, I got different advice/recommendations from different TSA agents on the same day. With relation to diabetes, they have no idea what they are doing!

Scott Strange said...

8 out of the last 10 times thru security I have had to endure a full body patdown. Last time they "had" to visually inspect my CGMS sensor which happened to be residing on my upper thigh. I get more and more angry everytime I go somewhere. I need to be careful or I'll end up getting arrested if I really lose my temper.

I'm going to take your approach next time and mention the actual TSA regs to them... maybe take a copy with me.

Unknown said...

I got a full-body pat-down when I flew in May...I was roundly pregnant, and there was another preggo lady being groped right next to me. They didn't even move us off to the side! It's appalling.

HVS said...

On my most recent flight, I got patted down twice
because the idiot TSA employee forgot one step of
the process("Swabbing" the pouch I had my Dexcom
in). I've never been more livid in my was a small airport & they drug both my husband and I back through security (for the world to see). It's absolutely ridiculous.

Lora said...

We have not had to go through this yet. I wonder what they do for kids???

phonelady said...

I think we should all go on Dr. Phil and go head to head with the TSA officials and see if they are brave enough to take us on !!! I highly doubt they would be able to handle us .

The DL said...

This makes me sick. I understand the need for security, but this is just crazy. I'm glad you stood up for yourself!

Unknown said...

Its the same for kids. My 11 year old has had a lot of full pat downs in the last year. The TSA really needs to find a better way. Its a waste of time and resources.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience. They all want to insist the full body scan will not harm the pump. How would THEY know? I am also offended that they want to swab medical devices. Treating people with medical needs like criminals will never make us safer.

Anonymous said...


Didn't have any issues in any airport, but San Diego was only one where I faced choice between pat-down or full body scanner.

But I pointed myself out as I was putting everything in bins, announcing I preferred a pat-down instead of the full body scanner that I didn't want to walk through.

Was painless and not much hassle, in my opinion - but again I didn't object to the search at all and just got the pat down without needing to lift any clothes or anything.

I may refuse both full-body scanner and pat-down next-time just to test and see what they do.

Denise aka Mom of Bean said...

The lack of consistency is probably the most frustrating part of it.
The lack of respect that is shown makes me so incredibly livid.
Go for you, Kel, for giving them a much needed lesson!

Caroline said...

I just really like your post title :) we should have t-shirts made just to wear to the airport. I'd wear mine ironically since I don't have a pump yet, but damn if I won't be flaunting my syringes next to my comrades at the pat down!

Anonymous said...

I always remove my pump and put it in the basket with all the other metal stuff and never get stopped anymore. Hope this helps.

Holly said...

My daughter leaves hers on (Medtronic 522), and walks right through. The first few times she flew, we were all worried, but it's always been fine (been pumping 6.5 years!) No pat downs-I'd flip out on them!

Way to stand up to them! : )

NickP said...

I have read in many comments here that "I understand the need for security but..."

This isn't security. It is theatre designed to make the masses believe that their best interests are being looked after. The TSA has never caught any terrorists. In fact, they fail quite often (I believe about 70%!!) at detecting weapons when they are being tested by their own overlords.

All in all, it has to stop. Its a gross violation of our 4th amendment rights and our right to privacy. Good for you folks standing up against their tyranny. We need more folks to see this for what it really is.

Unknown said...

On Pump Purchase Anxiety? I've still got my old MiniMed 508. . .even the people at Medtronic call it a dinosaur, and last time I had an issue and had to call them, it took them 20 minutes to find someone "trained" on the "dinosaurs."

My problem, though, isn't anxiety. It's no money and no insurance.

Stephanie said...

I read this blog post before we traveled with our 5 year old son...and I was hoping it wouldn't be this bad. We flew 4 times in the last 2 weeks and it WAS this bad...and as a parent, by proxy of having a child with diabetes, both my husband and I were subjected to pat-downs in addition to our son. I'm not sure what our rights were in this situation, but it totally stunk, not to mention adding at least 20 minutes to our travel time and a cranky 5 year old who did not want to be touched by a stranger. Ugh. I just wrote about our experiences and I'm STILL steaming mad.

Cara said...

The problem with the full body scanners is that you don't have a choice. If you have a pump or cgms on, MiniMed says NOT to go thru them and not to put them in the bins. So it's a pat down or nothing. Nashville still has a couple of lanes with metal detectors & if I can get in one of those, I just don't say anything & I walk right thru.
The pay downs aren't fun. The real problem lies in the inconcistancey of how it's dealt with. There are now firm rules, causing major problems in some airports & virtually no problems in other airports.