Traveling is a big element of our family life. However, my youngest son’s recent diagnosis has put that on hold for the time being. In coming to terms with our “new normal” and making adjustments, one of the first things that has come to mind (outside of when will we be able to travel as a family again?) is HOW do we travel with my son’s new medical needs? How do we fly with his port-a-cath? How do we fly with his medications?
It’s crazy but you never think about these things if you’re not living it. I’ve walked briskly by hundreds of passengers maneuvering the screening process with their wheelchairs. I’ve seen people hand special bags over to security agents. And I’ve watched travelers be escorted for special security screenings. Thoughts like, “Hmm, why does that person get screened separately?” or “Wonder what’s in that bag?” have briefly crossed my mind. And then I’d go on about my business.
Now I know.
Passengers with implanted medical devices have the option of undergoing different security procedures. In preparation for the next time we fly, I consulted the TSA website, which gave me all the answers I needed in regards to my son’s port and his medications.
- Let the security officer know that my son has an implanted device and where it’s located.
- Request the security officer to do a pat-down inspection or a discreet screening.
- Declare that we are traveling with medications and carry doctor’s documentation.
- Request a visual inspection of medications before the screening process begins if I don’t want meds to be X-rayed.
- Separate medications from other property and place in a pouch or bag.
- Hand the medicine bag to the Security agent.
- My son’s clothing isn’t required to be lifted as a part of the inspection process.
- All medications and supplies are allowed through security checkpoints after they’ve been screened.
- I will be asked to handle and repack my own meds (uhh, yeah!) to prevent contamination or damage.
Although the TSA site doesn’t mention this, I’d also request that the agent switch gloves when they need to pat him down. Can you imagine all the germs on the gloves that they’re using? Yeah, that’s the last thing any mom of a child with cancer wants touching their child: a plastic glove that’s touched…God knows what.
The number one thing any parent of a child traveling with a disability is looking for is sensitivity, then consistency, then efficiency with the process. What I liked most that I saw on TSA’s Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions page was: “it is the manner in which the screening is conducted that is most important.“
Understanding that TSA policy isn’t always consistent with practice, I’ll be sure to present the site’s official language to gate agents the next time we fly.