Tuesday, April 5, 2016

TSA: My Insulin Pump And A Game Of 'He Said, She Said, And She Agreed.'

"YES, of course I want you to feel me up and or put my expensive electronic pancreas through the Xray/body scanner"... said no one ever.
When it comes to TSA and my insulin pump I feel like a broken record. 
A broken record who has become very good at not taking no for an answer. 
With that being said - it's ridiculously exhausting, not to mention frustrating
I stood in line at Philadelphia International last Thursday, waiting to go through security. 
I was on my way to the Novo Nordisk’s Summit in Phoenix and I wanted to the TSA airport portion of my journey to be over. 
Sidebar: I’m writing a post re: my experience at the Novo Nordisk Summit, so stay tuned.

The line moved at a good pace and soon I was close enough to take off my shoes, put them in a tray along with my coat and placed my handbag in another tray. 
I looked at the young (and by young I mean I wasn’t sure if he was actually old enough to buy beer legally,) TSA Agent, standing in front of the body scanner “don’t cross THIS YELLOW LINE,”, area. I smiled at him and said: 

Me: Hi! I’m going to need a visual inspection for my insulin pump, please.
TSA Guy: No you don’t.
Me: Yes I do.
TSA Guy: No, you don’t. 
Me: Yes, I do.

TSA Guy: The body scanner isn’t an X-ray, it’s not going to hurt it.
Me: X-ray or not, I need a visual inspection for my insulin pump.
I can go through the body scanner no problem, but my insulin pump can’t - and it can't go through the Xray. It needs to be visually inspected. 
I need to speak with your boss, please.

TSA GUY shouted across to the other side of the body scanner to no one in particular and said: HEY, she needs a full pat body pat down because she’s wearing an insulin pump.
Me: Noooo, I don’t need or require full body pat down - I can unplug my insulin pump, no problem. I need a visual inspection for my insulin pump, not a full body pat down because I’m wearing an insulin pump. BIG DIFFERENCE.

Then a woman TSA Agent walked over and said: What’s up? 
TSA Guy: She needs a full body pat down because she doesn’t want to take her insulin pump through the scanner.
Me: I don’t need or want a full body pat down  - I can go through the body scanner, but my insulin pump can’t. I need a visual inspection for my insulin pump.
And for the record, it was just as tired and annoying continually saying it, as is to continue writing/reading said same phrase. 

TSA Woman to TSA Guy: She’s right, she doesn’t need a pat down. 
And inside my head, my inner monologue was all: I TOLD YOU, I TOLD YOU, I TOLD YOU! 
And then she turned to me and said: But I do need to test and swab your insulin pump and your hands. Are you OK with that?


So while my body was being scanned, TSA Agent Lady and my insulin pump waited for me on the “other side,” and then escorted me to the row of machines; where she swabbed my insulin pump and the front and back my hands, put the test swaps in some sort of mass spectrometer thing and waited for the all the clear. 
The whole experience took less than two minutes from escort to mass spec and then I was good to go. 
And then I thanked her and went on my way. 

And once again the confusion as to why some TSA agents are so quick to refuse and argue when it comes to a visual/hands on inspection of an insulin pump and or cgms, while other agents have no problem and seem to be in the know, was frustrating. 
It wasn't rocket surgery and I wasn’t arguing about having my pump or my hands swiped.

I wasn't trying to make someones job harder, nor did I want to be felt up by stranger because it was easier for them.
It’s not easier for me. Being felt up by someone I don’t know isn’t my idea of a good time - and I know for a fact that there are other options available.  
And putting a very expensive, precarious, precious electronic pancreas through an X-ray or body scanner will be never be an option for me - so please stop trying to make it one.

I was at the very same airport where a most excellent TS Agent told me to always insist for a visual inspection of my insulin pump and never to take no for an answer. 

It was also the very same airport where my insulin pump once tested positive for explosives and I was carted off to the little gray room for a more ‘intimate’ search. 

But no matter what airport I'm at, it's always an issue  - and it shouldn't be.

It shouldn’t have to be a “he said, she , said,” when it comes to visual inspections of insulin pumps, cgms, or any other durable medical equipment for that matter. 

It shouldn’t cause a hold up in tline and it shouldn’t involve a three, sometimes four way conversation, every single time - no matter airport

But it always does.  


Colleen said...

So - I've always done the patting -

Do you just hand them your pump? I don't know that I want to put it in someone's hands...

Rick Phillips said...

So I also always ask for a pat down and nto to put my pump into the scanner. Last time I flew the pat down got done, but the angry agent put my pump into the scanner. I was so angry. I called TSA when I got home and filed a complaint. Grrr.

I referred your your blog to the TUDiabetes blog page for the week of April 4, 2016.

Laddie said...

Just glad you didn't get the whole pat down. Your story from a couple of years ago is still one of the worse TSA stories for Type 1's that I know. I flunked the hand swab recently by carelessly using hand lotion when I got dressed that morning. Two female agents and me in a back room patting me down and swabbing everything in my suitcase, backpack, and purse. They were nice, but talk about a total waste of resources. I usually get PreChek but didn't that day.

Glad you are safely home and didn't get molested physically. I would argue that your privacy was violated, but small stuff in this day and age.

Shannon said...

I got the "explosives detected" result when I went through TSA on Sunday in Rhode Island. Thanks to my TSA Pre Check status, I got a "modified" inspection, which meant that they did everything you described in your previous post. They just did it in the middle of the security area instead of a little room. They had every item in my carry on spread out on a table for everyone to see. I also got the full-body "pat down" with a hundred witnesses. I don't know which scenario is worse, but I know that it was one of the most humiliating experiences ever. All because their machine falsely detected explosives on my hands.

doccindeme said...

That's very interesting!
I've had a very different experience, but it also all happened in Paris and Montreal:
The first time in Paris with my pump, 5-6y ago, I beeped and got a full body pat down, although it wasn't important for me, I was fine with it. Then I showed them my paper from my pump provider saying it's legit, and they were fine with it.
Fast forward 4-5 years, I've been there 4 times in the past two years, and I don't even tell them I have a pump, it just doesn't beep and I don't get any pat down!