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Singled Out In Security

Dear Diary,
At 10 and 7, my children are well-versed, seasoned air travelers.

(From our recent FL travels ...)

Landen can pack his carry-on within 15 minutes, and without my help. Madelyn is very good about making sure she has “activity toys” packed in case the flight isn’t equipped with screens on the seat backs.

They’re especially knowledgeable in the screening process. In fact, they have it down to a science.

Or should I say, had it down to a science.

iPads are placed in the bins, backpacks are put on the belt and Madelyn hands over her kit so I can place it in my tote.

“Mom, don’t forget to tell him you have diabetes supplies,” Landen reminds me as I’m in a rush to remove my shoes. I smile my gratitude at him, and declare it to the nearby agent.

Since I’m traveling with my children, we can forego the full body scan. Madelyn has to avoid them anyway since the powerful X-rays will damage her insulin pump.

“Young lady, I need you to remove your fanny pack,” an agent informs Madelyn.

“That won’t be possible, it’s her insulin pump,” I respond, sternly.

The agent gestures at me to say “no problem,” then directs us through the metal detector. First Landen, then Madelyn. She sets off the alarm, which has become a new experience for us lately.

“Wait right here,” the agent says, then pages a female colleague for assistance. 

Madelyn, who has now begun anxiously cracking her knuckles, looks up at me. “It’s okay,” I reassure her. Then I send Landen to collect our things as best he can since I noticed they’ve emerged from the scanner. 

Finally the female TSA agent joins us and is informed that Madelyn’s insulin pump set off the alarm.

I am annoyed. Everyone in this security line now knows my daughter has Type 1 Diabetes, is flying with her medical supplies and is wearing an insulin pump. This has been repeated three times now. While I am empathetic that this process is a mere matter of precaution and protection, I feel it’s been well-established that Madelyn’s unique situation here is a matter of medical necessity, not national security.

Madelyn watches the female agent prepare a swab.

“Take out your insulin pump, rub it between your hands, then hold your hands out palms up like this,” the agent instructs.

Madelyn struggles to also return her pump to her fanny pack because of her anxiety, but complies. Her hands are swabbed. The agent then inserts it into a machine that will inevitably tell TSA “yes it’s insulin, you dumbass.” The agent decides it’s necessary to swab my hands as well.

Surely there must be a better way, so people like Madelyn aren’t singled out like this? So they don’t feel like their legitimate medical conditions aren’t treated like a potential threat? Can’t there be a form of documentation, a certain TSA classification like the Pre-Check crap, or an exemption so they can go through the security lines like the “normal” travelers?

All I’m trying to do, is teach, show and empower my daughter that she can still go places despite her diabetes. And yet, we can’t even reach our gate without her diabetes reminding her that she is “different.” People don’t understand the challenges and sensitivities that come with it, that she must then struggle to overcome on top of everything else.

I try to hide my objections to this process as we join Landen with our belongings. We are quiet as I put my shoes back on, as I give Madelyn her kit, as we get organized before making our way to our gate. I don’t want for her to hate traveling now, because of these stupid experiences. There are a lot of words and comments and protests I could file in that moment, but knowing full well it will all be dismissed as “policy,” I simply take Madelyn’s hand in mine and give it an encouraging squeeze.

You got this, Madelyn. Now let’s move forward.

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