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Dexcom G4: The Airport.

My experiences at the airport are all anecdotal, so while I assume that TSA teams have seen insulin pumps and CGMs before, I'm most likely completely wrong.  Maybe they think I actually do have a suspicious device on hand, and they want to check it out thoroughly.  Maybe we're just going through the motions, according to protocol.  Either way, I don't mind being pulled aside for the pat-down (unless I'm trying to make a connection flight, in which case I tweak out the entire time, wringing my hands until they're useless dishrags with bitten fingernails.)

The trip to Australia was my first experience at the airport with the Dexcom G4, and while it wasn't too much of a hiccup, it was a different experience than traveling with the Dexcom Seven Plus system. (Note: Australia was the first, and only time, so far, that I've traveled with the G4. I wonder how the next trip will go.)  The people I ran into, security-wise, looked at this device as though it was made out of live gerbils, so it took a while to move through the line.

But I was a little surprised at how many people were called in to examine the G4:  the "female assist!", supervisor, and then the security supervisor.

I didn't take a photo of the Dex at the airport, because I would have most likely been arrested.

"Um ... what is that?"  

"This is a diabetes device, kind of like an insulin pump."  I wanted to mention a device they might be at least a little familiar with, before launching into an explanation including weird words like "interstitial."

"I need you to stand over here, miss, and do not touch any of your belongings."

Chris was watching from a few feet away, keeping an eye on our bags as they went through the x-ray machine. 

"I'm going to just stand over here for a few minutes with my shoes off, okay?"  I said to him, holding up the Dexcom receiver as evidence of probable cause.

He waved and nodded, safely back in his shoes and reunited with our bags.  The security team continued their questioning as they swabbed the device and proceeded to pat me down.

"A diabetes device?  Okay, what does it do?" asked the supervisor.

So I explained the sensor and the transmitter, and how it pulls glucose values from the interstitial fluid in my body, then transmits the data to the receiver.

"So it's for blood sugar management?"

"Yes."

"Does it play music?"

Wasn't prepared for that question.

"No?  Well, when it alarms when my blood sugar goes too high or too low, it plays a tune.  But not like a real song - more like an irritating commercial jingle."

"Does it communicate with your computer or phone?"

"Nope."

He paused.  "Does it come in different colors?"

Odd question. "It does, actually.  Pink, blue, or black."

"Pink, eh?"  The TSA supervisor examined the receiver one more time, then asked to see the sensor on my leg one more time.  (Thankful for yoga pants, which are easy to hitch up to expose the necessary real estate.)  His team also took at look at everyone one last time, making notes on a small iPad looking device.  Then the security machine buzzed, letting them know my device didn't contain any explosive materials.  I was free to go.

"So, do you like it?"

That stopped me.  "Like it?"

"Yes.  Does it help?"

"It does, actually.  It helps me keep tighter control of my blood sugars, which helps everything."

"Thanks for your patience."  He handed me back the receiver, turning it over in his hand one more time.  "My niece has diabetes, and she has a pump, I think.  She might like to hear about this thing."  He smiled.   "She likes pink."

Comments

Although I've had similar travel experiences (with some blips along the way), when they see my sensor, the rhinestones and stickers lead to a completely different path of questions. It's an opportunity to educate right?

Why did this tug my heartstrings so?

I love that he was thinking of getting it for that niece, or tipping her off about it, and was fondly imagining her listening to Locked Out of Heaven (one can only assume) while it pulled glucose values from her interstitial fluid.

Haha! I love that he was asking questions for his niece. How thoughtful.

I think I'm PMSing, but that made me get tears in our eyes. What a sweet uncle...it takes a village to raise a T1D. We're all in this together :)

Ahh, I like the ending. Good to know this might happen. I fly to Phoenix for Christmas next week. I've also heard the suggestion to just tell them ahead of time before you walk through that you're wearing it. They are less surprised then.

I would have a hard time in a situation like this.
I would have to try to exercise a great deal of self control so not to answer smart-assedly , thus, being handcuffed and escorted away by security

Have flown with my G4 now a few times without incident, including spins through both varieties of body scanners. Someone must be training them because I know the transmitter shows up, but no one has given me an "enhanced" inspection for a while. I think it helps that I no longer refer to the transmitter as a detonator. (Ok fine, I've never done that.) Flying today, hope I didn't jinx it.

This makes me smile. :)

Pretty freaking cute story. I will say that most of the time, TSA and other airport security are pretty good about insulin pumps. I just wish TSA did more to educate the agents about the medical devices they are likely to see. I asked a TSA agent once who was very confused by my pump if they were ever provided photos or descriptions of devices, and he said they were not. They are there to do a service, and I am not sure why the agents' jobs are being made harder. It seems like it would be so easy to educate them on these devices, as there's not hundreds of different kinds out there.

You run in to more friends/family of type 1's than anyone else I know! So cool.

Beautiful.

Love it! I met a couple from Wales while at Universal over Thanksgiving. They too were asking lots of questions. I love sharing info!

I deal with the pat down just fine, but my wife is the one that feels violated when I have to go through this. It really bothers her. Gotta love the type 3s.

...does it come in other colors? Love it!
and love that he had a T1 connection and was actually asking questions to help him understand the device for his niece and not just to be pain about security stuff!

Why don't pumps or CGMs play music? I know, I know they do important stuff as is. And it'd probably require them to be bigger, which is obviously not good. And there's probably some FDA rule that says medical devices can't have any ancillary features. I'm just sayin' T1D sucks an awful lot, easy access to music would be kinda nice.

Do you know if we can get this in Australia? Is this device worth getting? I'm type 1, I know no one else with it and currently self injecting and monitoring, not alot of fun... I'm looking for better control and help - so reading about how you are using this device, I'm wondering if it may be of value for me ...

Again Kerri Your magical way of telling a story has brought a tear to my eye. I thought he was going to be the PWD. The fact that he was asking for his neice is so sweet!!! As an auntie of a little girl with D and PWD I totally want to go find this man and give him a big hug!
Ugh so sweet!

Thanks Kerri, for the perfect opportunity to vent about the TSA and diabetes. I have gone through the machines countless times with the pump and ALWAYS get stopped, and get delayed in my travels (and probably at least a portion of an ulcer in the process). But then when I take it off, and some TSA rep sees me put it back on, they say "oh, you don't have to take that off!" I can't stand how it's hit or miss with them.

My other favorite story is coming back from Canada I got my carry-on searched - very thoroughly - and the lady came across my Humalog pen and of course, asked me about it (this was pre-9/11). When I told her it was an insulin pen, she couldn't have shut my bag faster. It was like a free pass out of the security line. It actually made me feel cheap, or pitied, or something. Very lame! Gotta say I hate traveling as a diabetic, I feel like I can't win. (end vent) :)

SWEET! Love this story. The unique and difficult nature of t1d makes instant community when meeting someone else with it or with a loved one who has it. My daughter(7 yrs old with t1d for almost a year) can spot an insulin pump with an eagle eye! Have met some lovely people this way...and it is so encouraging to SEE others living, and living WELL, with it. We KNOW they're out there...but to SEE it...:). We have a pink one coming soon:) SO excited for a tool to help manage better the crazy swings...at least that is our hope.

Awesome blog. It reminds me of the first time I traveled with my son and his pump. The TSA did a great job of making it no big deal and helping a crazy parent get through security without too much anxiety.

This takes me back to my latest flight with my implanted cardiac device in my upper left chest and my insulin pump attached to my right hip. The process involved me placing a hand over each device so she could wave the wand over me. I protested, but she didn't listen and proceeded to use the wand. I'm not sure what the purpose of my hand over each device was or what I would have done if my CGM was attached too.

So, Kerri, do you hold your receiver with you? I never let mine go through the X-ray, and do you actually take the pump and dexcom reciver through body scan or just opt-out for the pat down. With the animas Ping they sent me a letter stating not to bodyscan it, but my new Tandem says its ok, but now I'm not sure about the G4 so I'm still in the same boat...

Thia is good to know. I'm gathering information for a family trip to Punta Cana. My son is 16 and has the g4. He will not be thrilled at the idea of a pat down. Any other advice about traveling outside the country with supplies, etc. would be greatly appreciated!!

I fly about 30 times per year. I usually put my CGM in the bin along with my phone and very rarely get stopped through the X-ray. Only time has been in Tampa in the round X-ray. They looked it all serious...I am also wearing my medic alert too. Just told them what the transmitter/sensor was and off I went. Never asked additional questions. If I am due to insert a new sensor... I will wait till I get home sometimes to do an insertion and just test more frequently. Hey there is no perfect way.

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