A Diabetic, A Pump and Airport Security

Today's Project Blue November Instagram Challenge is to show where you've travelled as a Diabetic.  I've been extremely lucky to vacation all over the world and the two of the highlights for me were:

1.  Scuba Diving in Moorea in 2011.  By coincidence the dive instructor had been part of the team that dove with the first T1 Diabetic to receive her PADI certification.
2:  Hiking La Soufri√®re in Guadeloupe last winter. It was a very steep and challenging 800m elevation changed and I was thrilled to complete it thanks to my pump and my patient hubby.

Travel can be challenging for the T1 Diabetic, with time changes, strange food, and unplanned exercise, but you plan for it and make it work.  The most challenging thing for me in recent years, has been crossing the Canadian border.  As I've mentioned in the past, I am a type one diabetic who uses an insulin pump. I travel by airplane a few times a year, leaving the country about once a year which requires a little more scrutiny when you go through airport security.  My pump causes the alarm to go off about 80% of the time so I used to remove it and pass it around the security system, where it would be checked using the swiping method.  The security guard uses a of pincer device that holds some reactive fabric, they swipe it over the pump and then run the fabric through a testing device.  Recently, airport security decided that Diabetics should NOT remove the pump because security didn’t want to be liable for anything going wrong with the machine while it was in their possession.  So now, when I go through security and my pump sets off the alarm, I get pulled aside for a more detailed examination.    It is a very unpleasant, public experience, where a female officer moves her hands over all parts of my body, including the intimate parts.

The first time it happened I was shocked.  I deal with stress often by using humour, so I joked with my husband, telling him I got a “free massage with a happy ending”. The security guard used the backs of her hands which is supposed to make it less intimate I guess, but personally I still felt like I was being violated.  Only once have I been given the option of going to a separate room away from the public for this to happen.  Because I didn’t want to leave my husband or slow down the process I decided to just get it over with.  The public part of it was the least of my concerns.

The second time it happened for some reason I felt more traumatized. When I knew it could happen a third time, to be blunt, I decided I didn't want to be molested through my clothing by a stranger and purchased a very heavy sanitary pad to put some space between myself and the examiner.  I put the pad on before going to the airport and when it came time for my “massage” it turned out the security guard was a woman in training.  As a result my experience was overseen by her superior (female) and it was very thorough.  I did feel more protected by the pad, but it still was an unpleasant experience.  I later spoke with a lawyer friend who told me I had no legal recourse and had to go through the process whenever I was asked.  

My last experience makes me wondered just how effective this examination really is.  To put it clearly, I had worn a large bulky object between my legs.  Marijuana, cocaine, heroin, explosives, a pocket knife or even illegal amounts of cash could easily be formed or padded into that shape and worn there.   I had been examined by someone being trained in the proper way to do this exam, in order to catch people smuggling illegal or incendiary items.   I was not questioned about what was surely obvious bulk.  So how is it that the examination of that part of my body, in a fairly intimate manner, could possibly be effective in stopping those illegal items from being smuggled into our country. 

I really don't understand then, why it's necessary to put me through this humiliating and invasive experience.  And what about people who have experienced sexual trauma in their lives?  I wonder how it makes them feel?  If you have any sense of compassion, it’s not difficult to imagine.


  1. Yeah...I sympathise with the sort of thing you're talking about. Although I cannot relate to sexual violation and the humiliating trauma of such thorough & invasive bodily examinations, I can relate to security alarms being triggered and customs officials instantly assuming battle positions due to my Deep Brain Stimulator electrodes, wiring and pulse-generator setting off state-of-the-art security devices. This happened at Cologne Airport during my June/July visit to Europe. Luckily, I had three physicians' letters of explanation to cover me. I had to resist the temptation to defiantly shriek,"Allahu Akbar!" as I made my exit to the transit lounge.

    1. LOL, I had to laugh at the Allahu-Akbar comment. Sorry you have to go through that Nick.


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