Monday, September 17, 2012

And now you know... the REST of the story

Awhile back I posted a snippet about our awful experience with the TSA when we flew out of DFW airport.  I've been wanting to finish the story, but every time I tried to start, I'd get so freaking mad all over again.  

I figured it's about time to commit it to paper, lest my pregnant brain decides to get even more forgetful.  The story may run a little long, but here it is...

It all started as soon as we approached the security checkpoint.  Like any good (read: paranoid) person, I had printed out pages from the TSA website pertaining to anything related to kids, diabetes and travellers with disabilities.  I was fairly confident I knew what I could request from the TSA, and what I could expect.

I explained to the first woman that my daughter had type 1, and that I was okay with most of her supplies going through the scanner, but I'd prefer it if her pump didn't, and I wanted a visual inspection done of her pump supplies and PDM.  Which should have been okay, according to what is printed on their website:

"If you are concerned or uncomfortable about going through the walk-through metal detector with your insulin pump, notify the Security Officer that you are wearing an insulin pump and would like a full-body pat-down and a visual inspection of your pump instead."

My request was greeted with a look that suggested I had asked if I could run through the scanner naked and she replied she would have to ask a supervisor.  Meanwhile I put everything (except her extra pods and PDM) on the belt, while Fred and Mattias walked through the scanner, leaving Elise and I on the unsecured side.

We waited for about 5 minutes, then were rudely told to stand back ("no, over there... move back.  More.  Even more. You need to be out of the way").  I asked what the hold-up was and was told that they had to locate someone who could tell them what to do.  Meanwhile, Elise was getting upset and started to cry.

Let me interject that I had been nothing but calm, but Elise is just a very sensitive kid and can pick up on nasty vibes.  She told me if she could have Pinky (her stuffed bear), she would be okay.  Unfortunately, Pinky had already been scanned and was sitting on the secure side.  And they wouldn't give a crying 4 year old her stuffed bear back.  Nice.

Another agent (a guy this time), came over and asked me what the problem was.  I repeated my request, telling him he could see the information I had printed out from his agency's very own website, but he declined; again asking me what the problem was.

I told him I wasn't comfortable with putting what amounted to my daughters life support through the scanner and I wanted a visual inspection. He pointed at the PDM and said that it was fine to go through the scanner.  He seemed to be under the misinformed impression that it was a meter.  I told him that the PDM controlled the pump and if something happened to it, the pump itself was useless. He had trouble grasping the concept and walked back to the secure area.

So far me and my pregnant butt had been sitting on the cold, hard floor with a weeping child for about 20 minutes.  Elise starts wailing that she doesn't feel good, which is a sign that she may be low.  I wave at Fred to get his attention and tell him I need her diabetes back, which had already been scanned.  The guy tells Fred that he can't give me the bag, because it's already been cleared.  That's right, he was trying to deny my daughter the right to test her blood sugar.

Fred argues with him and tells the guy that Elise might be low and she HAS to check her blood sugar.  To which the guy replies, " she has to check right now???"

Fred says yes, grabs the bag and hands it over the partition to me.  It turns out she was in the low 200s, most likely from the stress, so I correct her and we continue to wait.

About 25-30 minutes after we first approached the security checkpoint, Elise and I were allowed back to the secure area, but we had to continue to wait while they swabbed EVERYTHING that was in our bags.  At least Fred and I were together.  By that time a suit had arrived with a giant binder and proceeded to try and figure out what to do with us.

It turns out the problem is that they can't pat down a child.  Ergo, they couldn't do a proper inspection on my very threatening 4 year old child with type 1 diabetes.  We had to wait another 30 minutes, and by that time we had missed our flight. 

The whole experience was awful and scared Elise so much that when it came time to come home, she started crying when it was time to go through security again.  Except at SFO, we had no problems at all (even though I requested the visual inspection again - yeah, I'm a slow learner), and the woman I dealt with told me that what they did at DFW was wrong.  She also told me that at SFO, it's a privately contracted company that handles security, while DFW it's the TSA.  Interesting, dontcha think?

Since this is getting rather long, I'm going to sum up what has me so pissed off (other than the obvious) in bullet points:
  • Don't have something written on your website, then ignore it.  And when someone tries to point it out to you, don't tell them (something to the effect of) "we don't have to follow those guidelines".
  • Refusing to give a child her teddy bear makes you a jerk.  And watching her stony-faced while she weeps for 45 minutes makes you a colossal jerk.
  • Don't try to tell me what a PDM is for. I think I know.
  • I think part of the problem was that the Omnipod was unlike any pump they had ever seen.  It would be nice it they were aware of all pump types.
  • Use the brain you were given to assess the situation.  One-size-fits-all rules don't work.  If a pump-wearing 4 year old with type 1 diabetes is considered a threat, then we are all in trouble.
Yes, I realize that I could have made everything easier by just letting her pump go through the scanner.  But I was not comfortable with that option, so I tried to follow the TSA's OWN GUIDELINES and look what happened.  Why was it okay at SFO and such a problem at DFW?

I have yet to file a complaint with the TSA, but it's coming.  If nothing else, another family, CWD or PWD won't have to deal with the stupidity that we did.


  1. I'm sorry to hear that airport security is still doing such inane things to families of diabetic children. We have our own horror stories (my son is 17 now) but not as bad as yours. You could also complain to the management of DFW airport and perhaps contact the ADA.
    This summer we flew from Montreal to London and back about a month before the Olympics. Airport security in both nations was a breeze for us--the agents we encountered were very professional.
    I don't see how treating people traveling with diabetes supplies like criminal suspects makes air travel safer.

  2. Write the letter. Complain. They won't learn until we speak up.

  3. So sorry that you all had to go through this!! Glad you are filing a complaint...

  4. This just makes me so mad that you all had to endure this kind of treatment, especially when it sounds like you were so prepared with the information on what could be done instead. So glad after all of that Elise was able to be reunited with Pinky again...what a bunch of jerks is right! xoxo

  5. Yep, big time jerk!! I get that they have rules to follow, but if they can't even figure out they need to follow their OWN rules, we are surely in trouble!

    We've, thankfully, had OK dealings with air travel. Our biggest issue so far (yes, I'm knocking on wood!) is when they scanned three times and swabbed just about everything in Bean's supply bag in Seattle.

    You totally need to write a letter!

  6. when we went to Disneyland just three days after Isaac started pumping I requested a visual and a pat down. They had no problem, but because I am a woman I had to wait for a woman to do it - we barely made our flight. But wait, it gets niece, whom has a prosthetic leg, was made to remove her prosthesis so that the agent could swab inside and her stump to make sure there wasn't anything there. She wasn't yet two. Can you believe that?! She was so upset and shaken by the event when we returned. Luckily, she doesn't remember it and hopefully they'll change their policies to give all passengers more respect and dignity while keeping everybody safe. I hope this doesn't negatively impact Elise's desire to travel in the future.

  7. Inspiring. Thank you for the perspective!!! Thinking and praying for your family!Click Here

  8. Poor Elise! I hope she forgets quickly and they can change their policies for the future. I have yet to hop on a plane!

  9. I'll share my own story right here, and if you need any DOC backup with the TSA, let me know! I'll write a letter too!
    In January, my family, my boyfriend and I were going to the Florida Keys. Previous to our trip, I had gotten paper copies of all my rx and a letter from my doctor stating that my PDM and pods shuld not go though the x-ray thingy and that it was impossible, due to the type of pump, to remove the pod. So I thought I was doing the right thing by alerting them, handing them my letter, and asking for a pat down. They proceed to pat me down, and then take all of my pods and PDM and wipe them witha little piece of cloth and then stick them in a amchine. Well apparently the machine was beeping in a way that told the TSA that my pods were explosive devices. So, they're asking me all kinds of questions was I recently hospitalized, what kind of work do I do. At this point, when they asked me that I looked him square in the eye and said "I sell f'ing mattresses". My boyfriend said if looks could kill he would have spontaneously combusted. Now were about 15 minutes til they finish boarding my plane, I'm pissed, Luke is extra pissed, and I just want to be on the beach, not stuck at the Pittsburgh Airport. A very large man with a clipboard and a blue jacket that says "BOMB SQUAD" comes down. He makes a few phone calls, swabs a few more of my pods, packs it all up and says "Have a great trip". Why the heck couldn't Mr. Bomb Squad come down in the beginning? Anyway, on the way home, since I knew I was ging home to a closet full of extra pods and such, I sent everything through the scanner, didn't breathe a word about diabetes, nd all was well. No failed pods, PDM still working like a champ. I hope you get through to them, because they're being royals pains in the ass!!

  10. >:|

    so freaking ridiculous. the guidelines are so different from between airports and even agents. i am so so sorry you missed your flight and elise was so upset. hopefully the next time you fly things will be different.

  11. After all that crap, you missed your flight! Sounds exhausting. Yes complain.... Maybe put up an on-line petition, everyone can sign and circulate to all airports across the country. So sad for Elise; children forget, but this experience may stay with her.

  12. Yeah, what kind of jerk doesn't give the kid her teddy bear back?! And then the diabetes parts just makes them utter assholes. xo Jo. I hope Elise soon forgets the nonsense you experienced.

  13. ARGH!!!!!!

    Hand over the bear, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!!!! It's can go back through security again........JEEZ LOUISE, PEOPLE!!!!!!!

    I also didn't feel comfortable letting our pump remote/pump go through the scanners this summer. We were able to get the visual/cotton ball test thingy in both directions without any issues.

    I get that we need airport security, but it just seems like we also need common sense...and responsive, knowledgeable, HELPFUL supervisors who can deal with the situation without all the extra drama when called upon.

  14. I am so sorry that happened..what a horrible experience.


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