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Posts: 59
Joined: Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:40 pm

Medical Devices And The New TSA Procedures

Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:22 pm

I've been reading this site for a while now, and am a huge aviation nut, but never felt compelled to join until I flew a couple of weeks ago, when something happened that I felt I needed to say. I apologize if this has been mentioned somewhere in one of the threads about the new procedures, but from a quick glance it has not.

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.
Posts: 817
Joined: Wed May 16, 2007 11:19 am

RE: Medical Devices And The New TSA Procedures

Thu Nov 18, 2010 12:33 am

You are correct in that a separate patdown should not be needed after the backscatter scanner. All they should need to do is to do a swab test on the insulin pump (not that swab test are that accurate).
Posts: 364
Joined: Sun Jul 17, 2005 3:41 pm

RE: Medical Devices And The New TSA Procedures

Thu Nov 18, 2010 2:17 am

I am also a Type 1 diabetic, but I use syringes rather than a pump. The only time I've gotten any hassle was a couple months after Sept. 11, 2001. The TSA, which was "new" at the time, spent some time looking over my kit with several syringes & vials of insulin, and I overheard one agent tell another one that the needles are OK as long as they are accompanied by insulin. I'm not sure why they'd be too worried about diabetic syringes. How could they be used for something specific to airline terrorism?

I imagine officials have to assume that a pump could be used as a disguise for something else.

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Joined: Sat Nov 02, 2002 9:04 am

RE: Medical Devices And The New TSA Procedures

Thu Nov 18, 2010 2:21 am

Quoting TLG (Reply 2):
I'm not sure why they'd be too worried about diabetic syringes. How could they be used for something specific to airline terrorism?

Because its a great way , though slow, to make someone pass out by getting a big dose of insulin and dropping their sugar real low.
Posts: 2936
Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2003 9:38 pm

RE: Medical Devices And The New TSA Procedures

Sun Nov 21, 2010 8:58 am

I’m an insulin dependant diabetic, traveling long haul for the first time since I have been diagnosed. I’m using Flexpens with needles, instead of syringes and needles. Any advice from fellow travelers with diabetes would sincerely be appreciated.

Thank you in advance!  

When you are doing stuff that nobody has done before, there is no manual – Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs)
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Joined: Sat Dec 27, 2003 1:29 pm

RE: Medical Devices And The New TSA Procedures

Tue Nov 30, 2010 7:40 pm

I have a medical device but mine is actually completely implanted in my body. Its a nerve stimulator, the battery pack part is in my lower back on the left side and it has wires or "leads" that go from the box to the back of my head in the upper part of my neck. If I can find a copy of my xrays I will post them, the device looks like it could be something bad and because this is something that is fairly rare it causes a big fuss at the xray machine! I guess you should tell the TSA people before you go through it but I don't care much for them and I like to see their response when they get the call back that I have some kind of electronic device with wires coming out of it! I am always taken for the body rub but o' well thats life!

Even though I am subject to much more screening than the average person (for some reason I ALWAYS get secondary screening on my boarding pass) I don't really have a problem with it. We know that people are getting creative about killing us and more importantly for me our economy, so if this helps its really not going to ruin my day.

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