Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Flying

My daughter took her second airplane vacation last week.  I thought perhaps, having been through it before, I'd be less anxious this time, but by the time we were safely on the other side of the security gate at our home airport, I realized my heart was pounding and my hands were shaking.  Our return was somewhat less stressful, partly because of the people and partly due to sheer exhaustion.

Like last time, nobody questioned our carry-on bags at all despite the syringes, juice boxes and infusion sets.  On our overseas trip two years ago, I developed a routine for passing through security points, which I followed on this trip as well. I passed through before my daughter.  I then turned to the official and, pointing at my daughter, said "She has Type 1 Diabetes and is wearing an insulin pump."  She then passed through the metal detector and set it off.  At that point, the official called for a "female assist," who we waited for in a little plexiglass enclosure so we couldn't make a run for it.

My daughter was then asked to stand on the designated mat which showed how far apart to put her feet for the pat-down.  She was given a little leniency here as these mats are not designed for 4 foot tall potential terrorists.   Unlike last time when her pump was swabbed for explosives, this time it was only her hands.  I thought that odd on the way out, but on the way home, the agent said to her, "now I want you to touch your pump with both hands and then I need to wipe them with this swab, ok?"   I then remembered that on the way out, the agent had asked her to take her pump out of her pocket to show her before swabbing her hands.

I must give credit to the agents on our trip home. Usually when I inform the agent of the impending situation, I get a stern nod and my daughter is motioned through.  This agent was genuinely concerned.  "Oh...I hope it's not an issue.  Let's see what happens."  Ordinarily when she sets it off, we generally hear"female assist" barked across the security area.  "I'm sorry, ma'am, but I'm going to need to get a female colleague to check her out, " this guy said sadly, before motioning to an agent to help us.  She was equally kind and gentle with my daughter, taking her time to explain everything she was doing.  Maybe these people would like to relocate to our local airport?

This whole process leaves me torn every time.  I realize that the world is a dangerous place, and that a terrorist could easily use a device masked as an insulin pump to blow up my airplane.  Some might even be nutty enough to get a child to wear it.  On the other hand, I've read that some other models of pumps don't set off metal detectors.  Just because ours does, how does that make it any more likely to be a weapon?  Ordinarily, I disagree with profiling for terrorists, believing that crazy people come in all varieties. I would venture a guess, though, that a 10 year old curly haired girl has never been, and never will be, on the terrorist watch list.

Maybe this will get easier with more experience.  Meanwhile, know that my daughter sacrifices herself each time she flies under the auspices of making the world a safer place.  We take some solace in the kindness of many of the security agents, and in the astonished looks of passers-by as they watch a small child being patted down to secure their safety.

2 comments:

  1. I don't go through the metal detectors. I've had the agents say it's safe but I'm pretty sure Animas says not to got through it with a ping.
    Agents are usually quite pleasant and other than the extra time, it's not so bad.

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    Replies
    1. Here's a link to Animas' airport security info from their website:
      http://www.animas.com/faq/other-airport-security
      It seems the pump can't go through carry-on x-ray or the full body scanners, but the metal detectors aren't mentioned, so I've assumed it's ok.
      Not that I ever argue with an abundance of caution...we've never submerged our waterproof pump in 8 years, with a similar better-safe-than-sorry attitude.

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