Friday, March 19, 2010

Traveling with diabetes is USUALLY easy......

Back and rested from a great vacation abroad.

I enjoy traveling.....learning about different cultures, people, environments and food.

I always pack my diabetes supplies in my carry on luggage, as the guidelines for airport security request. This trip, I took the time to research the guidelines for the areas I would be traveling, to ensure I had accurate information on the handling of my diabetes supplies. Using an insulin pump requires a lot of "strange" looking items to take through airport security.

My usual routine is to tell the airport security agent that I have diabetes, and I wear an insulin pump. I explain that my medical supplies are in my carry on baggage if they have concern. I have paper documentation from my physician, and documentation from my insulin pump company.

(side note, only once, in New York, was I actually given a hard time about my insulin pump and CGMS. Even the documentation I carried did not help in that situation. It took an hour to work through that process, but it all resolved once they were able to inspect my bags in great detail and swab everything for traces of anything "harmful")

This trip, I learned the appropriate wording in the appropriate language to explain "diabetes", "insulin pump", "medical supplies".....but I was not prepared for what happened.

I flew through airport security in Halifax and in London. No issues.

When I arrived in the Athens airport a few days later, there was a major issue with my insulin syringes and my glucagon. The airport security agents understood when I explained I had diabetes and those were my insulin syringes (I carry 10 syringes in case I have a pump issue and need to return to injections). I explained the glucagon kit was in case of emergency. This information was all understood, but still the airport personal did not know what to do with the "injectables". There was fear that I would attack the crew with my diabetes supplies while in flight.

Being a person with diabetes, I have syringes everywheres. It is not easy to find them all. I have a few in my "bathroom" bag, a few in my purse "emergency kit", along with several in various places in my "diabetes kit". Add to that, my two glucagon kits in two separate places....I began to quickly realize this airport security visit was going to be complicated.

After a long wait while the airport security spoke with their supervisors, along with reps from the airline and even up as far as speaking with the pilot, I was left to travel with no syringes or glucagon. My supplies were taken from me, and sealed in a container in the front of the plane until we arrived at the destination. The whole process was chaotic and confusing to all persons involved.

I asked if I was the first person to ever travel through this airport with insulin dependent diabetes. I understand their reasoning (reference Northwest Airlines Flight 253 / Syringe attack) about crew safety. I had proper documentation and prescription labels, but that did not help in this situation.

My concern: if there is a rule that no "injectables" can be taken on an airline, should there not be a plan in place for people with insulin dependent diabetes, and persons with severe allergies requiring an EPI pen, or any medical condition requiring the use of a syringe to deliver medication. It is not an uncommon issue......and airlines advocate for persons to take all medications in their carry on luggage. Why is this "rule" about injectables not imposed consistently? I have travelled through many airports, and many during this last journey, and only the airlines in Greece gave me any issue (and even then, one airport security agent in one airport in Greece let me go through with my glucagon and said there was no issue with it). The airport security had imposed this new rule, but do not have a consistent plan in place to deal with the situation when it arises.

I am home now, and lost 10 syringes and a glucagon emergency kit. Their process failed me, as I had a chaotic crossover at an airport mid journey and had to switch planes. My parcel of medications did not make this switch.

This is not a deal breaker. I will continue to travel, but will pack all my syringes in 1 bag and place it at the top of my carry on. As I did with my latter flights, when i sit on the plane, I call the flight attendant over and tell them I had a parcel of medications that were taken from me, and I needed to ensure they were on board before departure. I ask the attendant to let me know when they have been places on the plane. When I leave the plane, I exit as usual, and when at the front of the plane I ask for my parcel, and it is returned to me.

This is not a huge hassle using an insulin pump for my insulin, but if I relied syringes all of the time, I would need to call the attendant, and ask for a syringe in order to take my insulin....and even then, would they let you inject in your seat?? I am also not a fan of leaving my personal medication with other persons I do not know or trust. I handed my syringes and glucagon over to a stranger, who walked away with them. Call me strange, but now I do not trust any of those items which left my sight. They are "garbage" to me.

Good information to know. At this point, I only encountered this in Greece and no wheres else in the world. I hope they iron out the process as it was a hassle. I am going to contact the airline and ask they develop a process that can be consistently utilized, and make it publicly known.

3 comments:

shoppa said...

I'm sure this is gonna bring the TSA goons down on me... but when traveling internationally through countries that do not consistently apply any rules to security screenings (Greece is one but not the only one!) I sneak a prefilled syringe of insulin, or two, into the airport with me. My favorite place to carry it is in my sock. This way, even when they do take everything they can find away from me, I'm left with something to get me through the next day.

It's a real bitch when they take away my meter too. I used to be able to get visually-read chemstrips but I don't know where to buy them anymore... I don't think they've made them for a decade or so.

Scott K. Johnson said...

Wow - that is very disconcerting isn't it?

I have a friend who's pump set was accidentally ripped out during a security frisk at the departing airport. All his backup SETS had been checked, so he had to take small injections every couple of hours - for an international flight.

It sounds like you would have not even been able to do that? Or would they have permitted you to have your "goody bag" back?

Was language much of an issue?

Drea said...

I could have everything back once we landed at destination (but they did not say this until the end), but it took an hour for them to figure out that process! Language was a challenge, but we got through .......