Savannah Barry, a 16-year-old diabetic from Colorado, is furious at the TSA after an agent at Salt Lake City airport incorrectly instructed her to walk through a body scanner despite the fact she was wearing an expensive insulin pump. The pump stopped working shortly after the security check.
Savannah, who wears her insulin pump 24 hours a day, had been at a conference with several classmates, and was on her way home when she ran into TSA agents who were not trained to deal with her medical situation.
The TSA website provides the following guidance to diabetic travelers: “If you are concerned or uncomfortable about going through the walk-through metal detector with your insulin pump, notify the Security Officer that you would like a full-body pat-down.” Barry followed those instructions last week, but she was asked to walk through a body scanner anyway.
She said, “I went up to the lady and I said, I am a type one diabetic. I wear an insulin pump. I showed her the pump. I said, what do you want me to do? I usually do a pat down – what would you recommend?”
Savannah then showed agents a doctor’s note explaining that the sensitive insulin pump should not go through the body scanner. She says she was told to go through it anyway. “When someone in a position of authority tells you it is – you think that its right. So, I said, Are you sure I can go through with the pump? It’s not going to hurt the pump? And she said no, no you’re fine.”
The 16-year-old walked into the scanner with some serious reservations “My life is pretty much in their hands when I go through a body scan with my insulin pump on.”
She was right to be worried. That’s when the pump stopped working correctly.
TSA agents then made the situation worse when they didn’t know what to do about her juice and insulin. “She said, because we don’t have the machines to scan the juice to make sure this is not an explosive we do have to do a full body pat down and search your through your bags.”
Ironically, that’s what Savannah wanted in the first place, but it was too late.
At first I thought this was another story about how teenagers are often treated with no respect or not taken seriously, which is something I often hear from my teenage students. But then I read this:
Sherry Ruesch, an administrator at Dixie College in St. George, Utah, who also wears an insulin pump, says she had an experience just like the one Savannah complained about. While at SLC International, she tried to just send her pump through the x-ray machine to avoid an issue. Agents told her to go ahead and wear it instead. She says that wearing became a major issue and led to a search, pat down and a lot of wasted time. “I would assume TSA agents would recognize an insulin pump and wouldn’t treat me like I had an explosive device strapped to my leg.”
Paulette Fowler, a nurse in Salt Lake City, was also asked to remove her insulin pump and run it through the x-ray machine. In other words, the opposite thing that happened to Ruesch.
Apparently this is not about teenagers: it is about incompetent and dangerous behavior by TSA agents toward several passengers with medical conditions.
If you feel that what happened to Savannah should never happen to anyone else, please sign our petition demanding training for TSA agents so travelers’ medical conditions are taken seriously.
And thank you.
Photo Credit: screenshot from abc4.com