Last week, my husband and I traveled out to San Francisco for work (ie:1/2 hour of work in exchange for 8 blissful days, paid in full). Said travel required flying to our destination. Now, my husband and I have taken a number of trips over the 8 years we have been together but this was our first time flying together. I discussed with him before hand that I would need to go through a pat down since I was planning on taking my Dexcom CGM and Animas pump with my through the metal detector, as oppose to sending them through the x-ray. He doesn’t like to see me go through anything that might cause undue stress so I simply assured him that this was a normal process and he was okay with all of it.
We arrived at the airport with plenty of time, got our boarding passes and heading over to the security gate. When we got to the front of the line, I inform the TSA officers that I was carrying an insulin pump and CGM and that I didn’t want either of them to be put through the x-ray. Bare with me as I go off topic for a moment – I was certain that my pump could not be exposed to x-ray but I wasn’t sure about the CGM. Since I wasn’t certain, I thought it best to err on the side of caution and not ruin my CGM on the first day of an 8 day vacation on the other side of the country. With that said, the first few officers were very kind and asked me to walk through the metal detector. I obliged, set off the metal detector and was asked to walk through again after emptying my pockets. I declined, informed the officer (again) of my medical devices and was asked to step aside for a pat down.
This is where things go a little awry. I was standing in a sort-of gated spot, in the center of the security check point area but in full view of three gates filled with people waiting to board their flights. As I waited for a female officer, another officer was standing with me and asked what I was carrying. This is our conversation:
TSA Officer (TSAO): What are those items?
Me: Medical devices; an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor.
TSAO: I’ve seen plenty of pumps before and I know they can’t go through the x-ray but I know the [CGM] monitor can (note of condescension in his voice).
Me: I was told it couldn’t.
TSAO: Well, it can.
Me: Okay, I’m quite certain it can’t.
TSAO: It can. And its way more harmful to [the CGM] to go through the metal detector.
TSAO: So you should have just sent it through the x-ray. It’s better for it.
Me: It’s not.
TSAO: It is.
Then he walked away. A female officer approached and directed me to a side area. She talked me through the pat down procedure and asked if I want to proceed in a private area. I’ve had plenty of pat downs before (see:Plane Travel Initiation of a PWD) and they’ve never been too invasive or time-consuming so I declined. I shouldn’t have declined. Talk about invasion of personal space – “Please spread your legs a little further apart ma’am”. What did she think I was hiding up there?!?. Then after the pat down, she tested her gloves for explosive material. Remember when I said I was in full view of three gates full of people? Yeah, at this point I felt like more of a terrorist in their eyes than a person with a medical condition. Then and only then, did she (or anyone for that matter) look over my pump or CGM which took two seconds, was only a visual inspection and didn’t seem very thorough. I walked back over to my husband, he asked if I was okay, I smiled and said I was fine and we proceeded on our way.
It wasn’t until a few day into our trip that I became disappointed and angry. I was angry at the TSA officer that argued with me about MY medical equipment. I was disappointed and angry that I was subject to all that screening but that none of the officers ever really screened the devices that required the additional attention in the first place. And I was angry at this disease – for bringing attention that I didn’t want, for wasting my time and for making me feel like even less of a ‘normal person’ than this stupid disease already does on a daily basis.
The whole process seemed backwards and flawed. I can appreciate that greater security is needed now a days but an eight year old could plan better screening procedures. This won’t keep me from flying again but at least I can expect the best and plan for the worst the next time around.