Last month when flying back from Miami, I experienced my first scary situation with being a user of an insulin pump with a group of Transport Security Administration (TSA) agents. I’ve flown many times and find TSA in the USA to be sometimes a little bit overzealous compared to my experiences flying from other countries. There I just get waved through – no metal detector goes off – no questions asked with my holding my vacation loaner pump in my hand – they just nod – and I go through. Now, are other countries more up on pump technology then the TSA agents? Makes me wonder.
Now, it never has bothered me when the metal detector alarms, to be pulled over and then wait for a female agent to pat me down, swab my pump for explosives. Often we are chatting about diabetes and they are curious about the insulin pump. What they have to do is all part of protecting the passengers who are flying – as I could be a potential bomber and not be carrying insulin in my pump, but something else. I. GET. IT!!! The problem that occurred in MIA when returning back home to Canada, was that I had 3 agents insisting that I go through the full body scanner and I had to repeatedly tell them (as politely possible) that my Animas pump (and loaner pump) cannot be exposed to x-rays or radiation.
The next thing that happened, that got me slightly worried is when one of the TSA agents asked me to hand over my loaner pump to her to be placed it in a tray. That has never been requested of me before, I always continue holding it – it never leaves my side. I asked her not to place it through the x-ray – at that point I was getting worried. At that point with all that was happening I lost sight of that pump (Salvador Dali). To this day, I have no idea if perhaps part of his failure a few weeks later and being replaced my George Michael was due to that agent putting my pump through the x-ray machine. I just do not know!
So, now at this point, I had 2 agents insisting that the full body scanner would not do me any harm. I told them I knew that – but my pump I was wearing CANNOT be exposed to radiation and I was fine with the hand pat down. In the end, I stood my ground, and a female agent did their usual thing of going over my body, swabbing the pump (George Michael) and at that point, Salvador showed back up. Again, who knows where he went, was he swabbed or not, because if he wasn’t, well, you know what he could potentially be carrying.
I know that many American insulin pumpers have written in forums that they never get pulled over plus they tend to hide the pump for some reason (mine is not noticeable as well - but I don't purposely hide it). Obviously, they don’t set off the metal detectors or hand held devices that goes over their body. Either it’s true; that I was abducted by aliens and some weird object was placed in my head that only metal detectors can detect? Who knows?