Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Traveling with Diabetes

Below are my experiences in traveling with Diabetes. Recently, I moved to Singapore from the United States. I was in four air ports around the world. I have taken many flights previous to this journey whilst having diabetes. I've also been on road trips and have blogged about my pumping vacation last summer for a trip to the beach here:

Disclosure: I am not a doctor nor a TSA agent. These experiences are my own and as always, your diabetes may vary.

I've got SLC International Airport down to a science when it comes to wearing an insulin pump. But, I had never taken a year's worth of insulin across the world with me. So, I was a little bit worried about how that would all play out but it turned out fine.

I looked it up on the TSA website as well as asked them on twitter (and they responded!) about how to travel with diabetes supplies.  There I found out that I could indeed take a year's worth of insulin as well as the ice packs necessary to keep it cool on the 21 hour journey.  The website just said that I had to declare my insulin before putting it through.  Easy enough, I thought!

As I approached the security check, I told them that I had insulin and ice inside my bag.  The TSA agent asked that I separate them.  I pulled out both my insulin and my ice and put them in the totes provided and sent them through security.  I hid my pump under my shorts and easily walked through security. No issues and on to boarding.

The reason I choose to hide my pump is purely from experience.  The insulin pump has NEVER set off the alarm.  But, I've been leery of taking it through before, thinking it would set off the alarm.  A couple of times, while traveling through SLC int. I showed them my pump, told them what it was, and then proceeded through the metal detector.  Because I had shown them my pump, and NOT because it set off the alarm, I got the pat down.  As security measures increased, and full-body scanners, and full body pat downs came around, this process also involved an extensive full-body pat down.  Personally, I do not think a simple insulin pump warrants such treatment.  It is a medical device, OBVIOUSLY  a medical device.  It is also VERY COMMONLY worn and used by millions of diabetics in the United States. Therefore, I see no reason why a pat-down is necessary.  Especially when it doesn't set off the alarms.  The entire process would make me more and more frustrated and I just HATED the entire process. The ONLY positive side was that my husband had to deal with the kids, their shoes, coats, bags, the stroller, and whatever else our family of four was traveling with... for just a few minutes, while I was held up in security.  He usually had it under control by the time I finished and all I had to do was put on my shoes and follow them to the gate.

So.  One time when traveling to see the in-laws, I decided to hide my pump by wearing it clipped to my underwear (I ALWAYS wear my insulin pump with the belt clip) underneath my jeans.  No issues.  Whatsoever!  so... that's what I've done from now on!

But.. I digress. In San Francisco, we didn't have a lot of time.  So little, in fact, that unbeknownst to us, our bags didn't make it.  Security at the International gate at SFO was basically a nightmare.  It was HOT and extremely crowded.  The line was moving very slowly.  If we hadn't had business class priority, we probably would have missed our flight... maybe.  I followed the same procedure I had done in SLC but this time I made the mistake of ASKING the TSA agent whether or not I should separate my ice from my insulin inside of my carry on.  He agent told me that I did NOT need to do so.  And... of course, my bag was held up.  The boys' bags were also held up for some reason which they decided NOT to tell us about.  Damn those crayons!  ha ha ha.  Anyway, The woman on the x-ray side started chewing me out about not separating my ice from my insulin and I got right up in her face.  I was NOT losing my cool, but very firmly, and calmly, I said to her, "THAT is why I specifically asked about it.  I asked him, (pointing), right there, if I should separate my ice and insulin inside my bag before I sent it through the belt because they told me to do so in Salt Lake City and he told me that I did not."  "And that is why I ASKED SPECIFICALLY".
"Well," she responded "you should always do that."
"Well, that's why I asked" I told her again.
Eventually, our bags were all cleared through security and we were on to the gate at Singapore Airlines.

Our layover in Korea wasn't really long.  I think we had about an hour.  It was like 4:00 am our time and we all did very well with being awake at that time.  I have to give it up to the Koreans, their Incheon airport was fantastic.  Security could not have been easier.  It was 6:00 pm local time and there was no line whatsoever.  A nice man helped us all put our belongings into bins and carefully guided us though security.  No issues with the insulin, ice, or any other bags!  Quick, easy and so friendly.

By the time we made it to Singapore, we'd been en route for 21 hours.  My blood sugars did very well the whole time.  I did check them quite frequently, as recommended.  My insulin was still cold by the time we made it to our hotel and everything arrived safely... except for our bags.  ALWAYS carry on your diabetes supplies, even if you are taking a year's worth!

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