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.
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.
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 conditions 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.