TSA + Infusions = Funny
Road Warrior Meets Primary Immunodeficiency Equals Laughter with TSA
When you end up traveling as much as I do, and by no means do I travel as much as other people I know, you end up having some funny moments. Especially when you are carrying specialized medicine like many of us need in order to stay healthy. Here are a couple of memorable stories that have stayed with me over the years.
I will never forget when I was heading out on a Friday morning for a weekend meeting. Knowing I would be getting in a little early on Friday, I packed my infusion to knock it out while I had some time. One of the items I traveled with to assist with the infusion sites was a product called Buzzy Bee. It was a small bee shaped device with a small ice pack that attached to it, and when you turned it on Buzzy would vibrate to help numb the site where you were about to insert a needle. I loved it and thought it always worked well.
As I got to the airport security checkpoint, I took my medication out of my carry on and placed it in a bin. A TSA agent assisted and was pushing the bins into the x-ray machine. In a series of perfect events, it caused Buzzy to flip on and start vibrating in the x-ray machine. Immediately, two different TSA agents grabbed the bin when it exited out the other end. I can see it’s my bin, but I hear a weird buzzing sound. They excitingly asked whose bag it was and I answered apologizing that my device flipped on. Side note, if you really want to create a scene, do what I did and tell them your device accidently flipped on. At this point there was a bit of a scene happening at my checkpoint. I could tell my face was red, as I was horribly embarrassed. Once they saw Buzzy, granted mine had a sticker of Buzzy as a ninja because I am an adult, they quickly flipped it off and asked me to explain why I was carrying this box of medical supplies. Once I explained I had a physician’s note, they quickly let me on my way.
Sir, What's that I Feel?
Another kind of funny story that actually keeps happening to me is my infusion sites set off the body scanner. Let me explain, as I am hoping any and every one on a sub-q infusion can back me up here. I infuse in my stomach and sometimes your infusion can absorb really quickly and other times you can get these small pockets where the medication sits for a few days as it absorbs into the body. I had recently had one of the latter infusions and the next morning I could still feel the infusion sites. Thinking nothing of it I headed to the airport. As I entered the body scanner at the TSA checkpoint it scanned and I stepped out. The result of the scan popped up on the screen and I took a quick look behind me to see my entire stomach lit up red. The agent asked if he could pat down my stomach. All of this seems to happen before I ever have a cup of coffee. He rubs the back of his hand across my stomach and feels the bumps. The poor guy asks about it and I proceed to explain that I have a couple of liquid pockets from an infusion.
Let’s pause here for a second, not only is the poor guy confused, I just explained to him that I have secret pockets of liquid under my skin from something called an infusion, which he has ZERO clue what that is and now I get the privilege of speaking to a supervisor. Once they understand that it is the residual from a medical procedure they proceed to let me go.
Lessons learned from these experiences: don’t use the words device, pockets of liquid, or any other weird way to describe why you are a traveling pharmacy. I stick to simple phrases like medical procedure, I am sick and need this to stay healthy, or if the TSA looks like they enjoy their job just tell them you are a lot of fun once they get to know you.
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