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The Patdown: Diabetes At The Airport

Last week we were at the airport to travel to Marco Island for the CWD Family Weekend. And we were NOT traveling light, by any stretch. Chris and I had our suitcases, our laptops, and my diabetes supplies (infusion sets, insulin, test strips, glucose tabs, etc.) stashed in a carry on. Oh, and we also had that giggly baby BSparl, plenty of clothes for her to spit up on, formula, bottles, wipes, diapers, water for mixing the formula, toys, Happy Baby puffs for snacks, her car seat, the car seat base, and the stroller. (Phew.)

In addition to all the junk we were carrying, I was also wearing my Animas Ping and my Dexcom sensor (and carrying the receiver) — which made me a prime candidate for the airport opt-out search from a TSA employee, thanks to the fact that these devices are better off not going through X-ray machines, etc.

I know some people have had some very troubling experiences with the full patdowns, but I’m thankful that I didn’t have any issues whatsoever. Both times (leaving Rhode Island and then leaving Florida), I was pulled aside for the pat down. Chris and the baby went through security and waited while the (female) TSA employee gave me a good how-do-you-do.

I have never been comfortable traveling by plane (anxiety about flying has been well-documented here on SUM), so anything that makes me feel like I’m “safer” is never frowned upon by me. If someone wants to give me a polite pat down, I will let them. I have never been assaulted or attacked in any way in my life, so my comfort level with this airport procedure is high. (Note:  If you are on the “I am NOT comfortable with patdowns” side of the fence, that’s great. I’m just giving my opinion here.)

The female TSA employees in both circumstances were very polite and gave me a heads up before they even laid a freshly-clean gloved finger on my body. “I’m going to check around your waistband and up high on your inner thigh. I’ll also be using the back of my hand for any sensitive areas. Are there any areas on your body that feel particularly sensitive? I want to make sure you are comfortable.” This is something both women said, so I think there’s a very strict script in place for these opt-out searches. My response both times was the same:

“Nope, just those two medical devices attached that I had mentioned. And if I want to have this done in a private room, I can, right?” (Just checking.)

“Yes. Would you like to go to a private room?”

“No, I’m fine, thanks. Let’s start so we can finish so I can help my husband wrangle in that wiggly eight month old, okay?” BSparl waved from the stroller a few feet away, where she and Chris were waiting.

The search was courteous. And diabetes-wise, it was not a big deal for me. The TSA employee in Florida actually said, “My niece has an insulin pump. She just had her second baby. Now she has two little girls. And a pump.” She smiled. “It’s an amazing piece of machinery.”

The searches ended as quickly as they began, and we headed off to our gate as a family.

Scratch that. We headed off to the gate with a laughing baby crammed into a giant stroller, a sizable diaper bag, my to-the-gills purse, our laptops, and those New-Parents-Traveling-with-a-Baby expressions on our faces. You know the ones — where the bags under your eyes are bigger than the ones you’ve checked for the flight? Yeah.

*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*

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