Insulin Pump Travels/Travails

Just returning from a cross-country flight, the following report shares personal experiences of traveling with my insulin pump as it is attached to my body.

Travel preparedness for and with  this equipment alone takes anywhere from many weeks to a few days.  As a lifetime diabetic, traveling has been possible, however an encumbrance.  For instance, if and when I need to order supplies for this particular machine, I make sure I have the funds to pay for the supplies.  When an order is placed, it arrives within four days (e.g., infusion sets, cartridges, IV 3000s, alcohol preps, batteries, etc.).  Other necessary diabetes-care supplies takes two weeks to arrive after an order is placed (e..g, glucose meter strips and lancets, insulin(s), ketone strips, glucagon, Ace-Inhibitor pills, syringes, etc.).  This chore does not include clothes packing, weather charting, dog sitter arrangements, having someone post my soon-to-be-due bills, etc.  It is what waits for me at any airport that I find uncomfortable and uneasy. 

Approaching the security checkpoint is extremely unnerving.  

After removing my laced sneakers as required (I insist on wearing closed-toe shoes to avoid feet harm), I place them in the available large rectangular bucket as is compulsory.  Another bucket will hold by medical-carry-on bag, my stand-alone wallet and a book.  Sure, everything scans out wonderfully well – so far.   I always wondered why the security agents have never ever questioned me about carrying syringes on board!

Okay, so my stuff is going through.  Now it’s my turn, my physical turn to pass through. 

Embarrassment #1: I no longer attach my insulin pump to the front of my bra because I quickly learned from another flying experience not do so in order to avoid tremendous self-embarrassment and humiliation!  So, I always clip it to the waist band of my pants or skirt.

As I walk through the security doorway screening thingy, it beeps.  The screening thingy has always beeped since wearing an insulin pump.  It’s been fifteen years now, and it still causes the security doorway screening thingy to beep.  I understand why.  Its metal computer components set it off.

  Embarrassment #2:  “Step over here, ma’am,” a guard says politely.  I do what he or she says.  “Female attendant required,” is always the next statement from the available guard.

As a uniformed female security guard approaches my holding area (off to the side in open and plain view of all the security guards and all other travelers = embarrassment #3), she explains what she will be doing.  “It’s my insulin pump that set it off,” I explain.  “I’m sure it is,” she replies.  “Now empty your pockets.”  Having empty pockets to begin with, I turn them out.  With bright blue rubber examination gloves covering both of her hands, she begins the slow process of touching my body – all over: head, neck, shoulders, breasts, rib cage, hips, inside waist band, buttocks, crotch, thighs, calves, ankles, feet.  Then it is done again.  She also swabs the palms of my hands with a round cloth, approximately four inches in diameter.  This is to check for incendiary powder.  My feet bottoms have also been wiped on other flight occasions, but not always.

After at least fifteen minutes, I am cleared to go.  This happens all the time!  Due to this process, my flight dreams have become eluded.  I do not want to travel by airplane.  The only choice I have is not to go – anywhere – by airplane.   However, that is often times impossible, especially on a moment’s notice.  

In retrospect, I respect what has to be done but I don’t like it.

Does anyone else out there feel the same way?  It would be nice to know that I am not the only one.  I can’t be.  Not with 90 million diabetics in this country, one-third of whom use an insulin pump.   

I still dream about being cured.  In the meantime, I endure as I am sure you do.  I look forward to hearing from you!

A. K. Buckroth;


Insulin Pump Travels/Travails — 8 Comments

  1. Do you wear a medic alert bracelet? I always show my card and bracelet when traveling. The card lists doctors, meds, gadgets etc. related to illness. I bought bracelet via medic alert and update as needed.

    • Yes, I have been wearing a Medic Alert Medallion around my neck since it was presented to me as a gift by my mother when I was fifteen years old. I am now fifty-four. Have the same medallion and update it with the company every few years. It has not been viewed in all this time. In fact, I can racall only two instances where someone has asked “Oh, what are you allergic to? I see you wear a medic alert necklace.” Nonetheless, this item has to be removed from my neck at airport security checkpoints due to it being metal. No one cares – just take the thing off.
      Thank you for being in touch with me. Happy Holidays.

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