Two Updates to TSA Roulette

My previous post discussed the stress of going through TSA airport security when traveling with an insulin pump and how it can be like playing roulette.  I have two updates to that post.  One recounts a recent airport security experience.  The other describes a special TSA program for people with disabilities and medical conditions.


Laddie_Head SquareRandomly Not Diabetes

Late last week I returned home from an international family vacation and had an ironic adventure with airport security.

My trip out of Minneapolis was uneventful with a routine pat-down and hand swabbing.  Although the TSA agent at the AIT (Advanced Imaging Technology) scanner told me that “everyone goes through with their pumps”, he did not argue when I refused to do so.  The pat-down was efficient and the female agent was professional and kind.

My husband used online check-in for the trip home.  It went smoothly for him and the  children and grandchildren. But he was unable to check me in online.

At the airport I got my boarding pass with no problem and I assumed that the online  glitch was a thing of the past.  No such luck.  When my passport was scanned at the security desk, it was immediately confiscated along with my boarding pass.  I was instructed to go through the metal detector and then retrieve my documents from the agent on the other side.  That retrieval involved having my purse and backpack inspected compartment by compartment and item by item.  This was followed by a pat-down and hand swabbing.

Passport and boarding pass in hand, I headed for the gate.  When my boarding pass was scanned by the Delta agent, I was pulled aside for another search of my possessions along with another pat-down.

If you travel much, you know that I was just a passenger selected randomly by the TSA for enhanced security screening.  It was a scenario unrelated to diabetes that I neglected to put on my TSA Roulette Wheel.

After going through customs and retrieving my luggage in Atlanta, I received another security pat-down because of my insulin pump.  It was a fitting end to a three pat-down day for a Type 1 grandma traveling with a baby, a screaming 2-year old, a 5-year old, three adults, a group total of ten pieces of carry-on luggage, and an insulin pump.

TSA Cares

Yes, despite occasional evidence to the contrary, they actually do care and have a program called TSA Cares to prove it.

TSA Cares is designed to help people with disabilities and medical TSA Logoconditions navigate the security screening process.  The entry into the program is through a help line at 1-855-787-2227.  It is recommended that passengers call the help line 72 hours before a trip.  For many people the phone call will provide all the information and assistance necessary.  For others with more complex needs, the help line agent can arrange for a Passenger Support Specialist (PSS) to personally escort them through the screening process at airports with the program.

Meri Schumacher of Our Diabetic Life is the mother of 3 boys with Type 1 diabetes.  She wrote a very informative blog post about her recent experiences with Patient Support Specialists through TSA Cares.  She was very emphatic that the PSS program is at risk for being discontinued if more people do not use it.

So check out the program and give it a try if you think it would be helpful to you.  And be sure to spread the word to friends or family members who might benefit from TSA Cares and a Passenger Support Specialist.

25 thoughts on “Two Updates to TSA Roulette

  1. I’m always a little disappointed when I don’t get pulled aside for my Dexcom sensor. I just want to tell everyone about it.

  2. Would you not be eligible for the soon-to-be-expanded trusted traveller program, which I believe you said Dennis is in? They are touting it in the media….

    But the real bulletin is how calm you remain throughout. A miracle! How do you do this??? One day I am going to have a stroke at a TSA Screening Point because my blood pressure went to 250 when they freaked out over a barrette in my hair.

    • I don’t know if the Trusted Traveler program would help in relation to an insulin pump. Although a Trusted Traveler does not have to take off shoes, belt, computer from briefcase, etc, the cell phone must always be removed and sent through the x-ray. An insulin pump is an electronic device that should not go through x-ray nor am I willing to remove it, so as a Trusted Traveler, I would still be facing pat-downs and hand swabbing.

      But yes, I think there could be some sort of program for those of us with medical devices. TSA wastes a lot of time on low-risk people like me who happen to wear insulin pumps.

  3. I’m honestly concerned that it would create more hassle than its worth for me. But the moment it causes me a big headache, I’m sure I’ll change my mind.

    • I actually agree with you, Scott, for me. But if I had one or more children with Type 1, I would definitely look into it. Or if I had other medical conditions or disabilities in addition to type 1, it would be helpful. It’s nice to know that it is there for people who need it.

  4. I haven’t traveled by plane with my daughter yet, so I don’t have any experience with the TSA and diabetes. However, I have wondered one thing: since people with diabetes obviously travel by plane, why can’t the pump manufacturers build their devices so they can go through the X-ray machines? I would seem like the easiest thing to do to solve the problem.

    • In most cases the pumps would probably be safe going through all of the security options, but I don’t think the pump companies are going to guarantee this. And when I’m travelling I just don’t want to take a chance that something happens to my pump. i don’t expect pump companies to invest much money in making pumps x-ray proof because security technology is changing all of the time and the pump companies probably don’t want to deal with the liability of pump malfunctions. But it surely would be nice.

  5. Wow. lucky you drawing the “all those extra pat-down” card!! (Kidding) Nice to know it was just random and not diabetes related though. They always try to tell me it’s fine to go through the full body scanners too. I always politely decline and it isn’t a problem though.

  6. I simply detest the TSA checks and pat-downs although I feel safer with them being done than not. When I had the Dexcom 7+ it was swabbed and the big ole red alert bomb thing flash. Scared me to death as I was escorted from the main area where I was pat-down first to a smaller area where another pat down was done. So did you go through the metal detector with your pump on at the first stop point where they took your passport? I’m definitely in the boat of there’s no way I’m letting my pump and/or Dexcom receiver go through any scanners/detectors or X-rays. I imagine TSA would be singing a new tune if they had to replace each one that malfunctioned as a result of telling people that they can just go on through. *Insert Rolling Eyes* 🙂 Thanks for the TSA Care program tip too!

    • I have always gone through the traditional metal detectors. When I first started pumping ten years ago I was told that was Ok by the pump company. But never to put it through the x-ray. And not the new scanners. I seem to set off the metal detectors a lot of the time now and I never used to. Could be I have an Animas pump now instead of Medtronic. Or the metal detectors are more sensitive.

      I’m becoming more resigned to the pat-downs. Three in one day will do that to you. Although having our carry-ons screened does make me feel safer, a system that continually wastes its resources by patting down low-risk people like me every time I travel does not make me feel safer.

      But it’s not going away.

  7. What a pain! I’m sorry. I’m worried about flying next month, because not only do I have my pump to deal with, but I now have metal in my arm after I broke my elbow in March. I’m a minefield!

    • Seems to me that might make you a candidate for the TSA Cares program. Of course maybe the elbow won’t make a difference if you have to be patted down anyway because of the pump.

  8. I am definitely using TSA Cares from now on. I refuse to play TSA roulette anymore!

  9. I’m eager to find out how the program will work for others. Unfortunately, some friends have already reported getting the runaround from TSA Cares. They’ve been told to, “Just go to security and tell them you have a pump.” Not cool. I know when you call Animus or Medtronic with a malfunctioning pump, one of the first questions they ask you is, “Has the pump been near xrays of any kind.” A friend of mine just was told by Animus that they won’t replace her son’s malfunction pump because they ‘suspect’ xrays damaged it. Something needs to be done. People are being bullied through the scanners and imaging machines and it just isn’t right!

    • I do hope your friend gets that worked out with Animas. I don’t see how they would ever prove “x-ray damage.” Because our phones, cameras, etc. all go through the x-ray scanner all of the time, I think it is unlikely that x-rays would damage it anyway. Sounds like another hassle that a D-mom doesn’t need.

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