Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fearing The Airport

Child to Cherish Going to Grandma's Suitcase

Sometimes, I wonder if being tuned into the global T1D landscape on the internet is really a good idea.

Sure there is a wealth of information designed to help families but there is also, a ton of scary information to contend with.

For example, if anyone Googles type 1 diabetes and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), like I recently did, there is plenty of interesting material to read.  Especially material based on flying horror stories.  Even though I am usually pretty relaxed about going through new adventures with my girls, like airport security - an ultimate trip in adventure!, reading those scary Google stories became enough to make my instinctive parenting alarms sound off.

There are tales of invasive pat-downs, scared children separated from parents, expensive, non-insured, insulin pumps that malfunctioned to the tune of $6,000 or more, after overzealous TSA employees placed them through damaging metal detectors and body imaging scans.

Not to mention that I don't want to put my girls through a security system that automatically believes all people are guilty until proven otherwise.  Having to explain why someone would think they have built a bomb is not a great conversation to have with little girls that still do fully understand the impact of 9-11.  It seems like forcing another adult sinister theme of how some people are truly evil in this world.  I would rather focus on the positives of caring souls that make the world a better place.

If you read beyond those grim airport tales, there are also stories of patients living with type 1 diabetes that sailed right through the airport security checkpoints and onto comfortable, albeit cramped, seats on the plane for uneventful flights to their destinations.

And yes, that is exactly what I am going for... a very smooth trip. I'll even overlook the zero leg room!

Our family will be flying shortly and it will be the first flight that I have had TWO children with type 1 diabetes also flying along.  Four years ago, we only had one daughter diagnosed.  I still remember the newness of children with insulin pumps and how many TSA agents weren't even quite sure what to do.  Today, however, there is an entire new world of medical progress and so I am sure that TSA agents have a better handle on how to deal with families like ours.

In any case, I have been doing my homework in order to prepare and prep ahead of time.

Three things that I have been advised to do are as follows:

1.)  Obtain a note from our pediatric endocrinologist with information on our daughters' diagnosis and medical needs, including use of an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor.

2.)  Call ahead and speak directly to TSA Cares, an open line to coordinate your medical needs with security.  

From the TSA Cares website:

TSA Cares Help Line

TSA Cares is a help line to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. TSA recommends that passengers call 72 hours ahead of travel for information about what to expect during screening.
Travelers may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787-2227 prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. TSA Cares will serve as an additional, dedicated resource specifically for passengers with disabilities, medical conditions or other circumstances or their loved ones who want to prepare for the screening process prior to flying.  Travelers may also request a Passenger Support Specialist ahead of time by calling the TSA Cares hotline at 1-855-787-2227.
3.)  Upon packing, be sure to separate, the medical supplies from the rest of the luggage and declare it upon arriving at the security check point.  From TSA Cares, also declare medical devices and if you do not want to go through a metal detector or Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), request a modified pat down at this point.  
Finally, if anything should arise where you feel uncertain, you can also ask for a Passenger Support Expert to be brought into the screening process.  The job of a Passenger Support Expert is to help assist families that have questions or concerns about screening with disabilities and medical conditions.   
If you are flying for spring break or saving this for summer vacation, have a great trip and try not to let the small seats bug you!

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