While I fully admit that I’ve come away from a couple of checkpoint experiences in the last decade a little miffed, I have to admit that I have never had anything resembling what I would consider a truly awful experience with our friends at the Transportation Security Administration. In the hundreds of checkpoint transits I’ve made since TSA came to town, I’ve never personally encountered a TSA agent that was anything less than professional – true story.
Since obtaining Global Entry and entering my “Known Traveler” number in my Delta.com profile, I usually get to go to the PreCheck lane where there’s usually no requirement to enter the “scanner.” Recently, I was departing an airport without PreCheck, and I had a decision to make. As many of you know, I have Type 1 Diabetes, and my diabetes is treated with a Medtronic insulin pump. I like my pump a lot. If you’ve ever had to travel with a sack full of syringes and inject yourself 3 to 5 times a day, you’ll know what I mean.
Wearing an insulin pump has improved my diabetic life immeasurably, and I try to take care of my pump which is why I really did not want to read the following on Medtronic’s website:“You need to remove your insulin pump and CGM (sensor and transmitter) while going through an airport body scanner. If you do not wish to remove your devices, you may request an alternative pat-down screening process.” A quick Google search found several articles on the subject like this one. In short, radiation may damage the pump. Now, I do not know if the opinion of Medtronic and the physicians mentioned in the article is a result of actual testing, or a lack of testing. I do know that until the manufacturer says it is OK, I will not be wearing my insulin pump through a “scanner” or submitting it to x-ray.
Back to my recent checkpoint transit at a non PreCheck airport. I placed all of my items on the belt as usual. When I was directed to the scanner machine, I politely informed the TSA agent that I wished to opt out. He was very professional about it, and directed me around the metal detector to a waiting TSA agent. The agent confirmed which items were mine on the belt, and collected them all, then directed me to the nearest manual screening station. This agent was again polite and professional. He did ask me why I was opting out. I explained that as far as I knew, my insulin pump could be damaged by anything more powerful than the walk through metal detector, and that was not I risk I could take. He said it shouldn’t harm my pump (I prefer to defer to Medtronic on this), then proceeded to thoroughly explain what was about to happen – an enhanced patdown. He politely explained things first, and then proceeded with the patdown. Soon enough, I was on my way to the gate.
People with diabetes have enough challenges, and I wish airport security was not one of them, especially for insulin pumpers. It is what it is, and with a little planning, you can transit security with relative ease. Don’t be afraid to opt out if you are wearing an insulin pump. I’ve never been treated anything less than professionally when doing so.
NOTE: It is important that you consult with the manufacturer of your insulin pumpregarding the impact of airport screening procedures on your particular brand.
Also, I did a complete series not terribly long ago on traveling with diabetes. Here are the links.
I am in the midst of a rather intense few weeks of work and travel. I’ll be posting new content regularly, but filling in some spots with “Best of” posts from time to time. How does a post get qualified as “Best of?” Pageviews, comments, and intuition. This post originally appeared on June 28, 2013.