I flew home from California last week after visiting my aunt in San Francisco…thankfully I wasn’t flying through LA, because it looks like my pump might have caused a bigger scene there. “TSA Mistakes Insulin Pump for a gun, Causing LAX Security Scare.”
I was asked to step aside in the San Fran airport (made it through the Charleston airport without a hitch), and felt up by a female security guard. The whole experience was uneventful and only took a few seconds, but still, it bothered me. My mom stood off to the side waiting while I was searched and I couldn’t help feeling a little resentful about the whole thing. I was glad that I was traveling by myself and not my 3 young kids because it would have added to the already hectic experience of flying.
A few of the commenters on the article in the LA Times wrote about traveling as a diabetic:
“I don’t know what idiots were on duty that day, but I am glad it wasn’t me. I fly quite a it WITH MY INSULIN INFUSION PUMP on all the time. They can’t go thru the x-ray machines as they will be damaged and I have been told by Medtronic not to go thru that walk thru thing. Have them see the pump, hold it in my hand and run a scanner across me, so they have seen them many a time. It’s very simple and easy to deal with. I also carry a medical device card with me and should others in my position. No hassle, plain and simple.”
“PATHETIC! If anyone ever did that to me and my insulin pump I would make sure to cause hell for the people that accused me. Ive been thru a lot of airports and have never had any problems so im curious as to how this happened.”
“Yes an insulin pump with a tubing and attaches to a canula in your body, comes in all sorts of colors like blue, green, pink, purple, no larger than a deck of cards in the similar shape, yes this so looks like a gun. I dont know why people are saying she walked away and left it behind, you do not detach it from your body. It just pops on the scan that theres something and further screening needs to be done. But the TSA needs to change its medical rules and stuff….cause so many people travel with medical devices that are attached to their bodies or had surgeries and plates or pins or screws in their bodies.”
(on facebook) Kerri Morrone Sparling said, “I personally have never had an issue at the airport (and I wear an Animas Ping with a metal clip and a Dexcom CGM with all kinds of crazy bits, sometimes opting for the pat down, sometimes putting my devices through the machine, and other times being randomly selected for screening), but I know everyone’s experiences vary.”
What we can all take away from this is the importance of being prepared when we travel. I devoted an entire chapter of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Diabetes (and it could have been much longer) to travel. Some helpful tips from the chapter include:
- See your doctor before you go. Get a letter describing your diabetes management and a copy of your prescriptions.
- Whenever possible, bring prescription labels for medication and medical devices (while not required by TSA, making them available will make the security process go more quickly)
- Pack medications in a separate clear bag and place in your carry-on luggage.
- Keep a quick-acting source of glucose to treat low blood glucose (glucose tabs) as well as an easy-to carry snack such as a nutrition bar.
- Carry or wear medical identification ( a cute diabetes bracelet) and carry contact information for your physician.
- Pack extra supplies, at least twice as much medication and supplies as you think you’ll need.
- Keep supplies in a carry-on bag.
- Because prescription laws may be very different in other countries, write for a list of International Diabetes Federation groups: IDF, 1 rue Defaeqz, B-1000, Belgium or visit http://www.idf.org. You may also want to get a list of English-speaking foreign doctors in case of an emergency. Contact the American Consulate, American Express, or local medical schools for a list of doctors. Insulin in foreign countries comes in different strengths. If you purchase insulin in a foreign country, be sure to use the right syringe for the strength. An incorrect syringe may cause you to take too much or too little insulin.