by Annaben Kazemi
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” - Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher (604 B.C.-531 B.C.)
I felt the sweat drip down the small of my back. My breathing was shallow and my heart racing. I had arrived at the airport early, and was now standing in what seemed like a never-ending security line awaiting TSA inspection. I’ve flown many times and considered myself an experienced traveler, so why the jangling nerves? I’d never had to fly with my daughter’s infusion supplies before. We’d always managed to schedule her intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) infusions around our trips (or, let me rephrase that: We’d always planned our travel around her infusion schedule). But, recently, my daughter transitioned to subcutaneous IG (SCIG) infusions, and that became a game-changer. I clinched the doctor’s note in my hand along with my ticket and ID. The note explained her condition and the meds and equipment we needed as carry-on items.
I nervously chewed on the inside of my cheek, while various scenarios with TSA ran through my mind. I had been told to be prepared to be really checked over. I’d even heard stories of TSA agents thinking the SC pump or nebulizer was a bomb. Would they take her pump for an “explosives swab”? Or, worse, what if they didn’t allow her equipment or IG medicine on the plane? Would we have to cancel our trip or leave the supplies at home? As I made my way up the line, trying to balance all my bags, I strained to put my nervousness into perspective. I began ticking off the mental list of supplies I had carefully packed in my carry-on. I had carefully labeled and numbered each piece of equipment, and they corresponded to a typed list that was neatly tucked in the front pocket of the carry-on.
When I got to the first agent, she stopped me and said I needed to go back and check one of my carry-on bags because I was only allowed two. (I had dedicated the medical supplies to their own small carry-on.) I glanced at the annoyed agent and felt myself fighting defensiveness as I explained that one bag was medical equipment. I had read that the ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act) mandates that prescription items and devices needed to administer them, such as needles and syringes, must be allowed in the cabin of an airplane - provided they fit into the overhead bin or under the seat. Furthermore, these items were not to be counted in the carry-on limit. As we passed through the initial checkpoint, I told myself to stay calm and took some deep breaths.
When I got to the next agent, I was more assertive and openly stated that I had a bag of medical supplies. He waved us through telling us to make sure to let the TSA agent at the final screening point know. While I unloaded our electronic devices (iPad, laptop, Kindle and cell phones) into a container, and took out a plastic Ziplock filled with liquid meds and hand sanitizer, I explained to the screening agent that I was carrying medically supplies that I wanted hand checked rather than run through the X-ray.
I could feel a collective wave of irritation as I held up the line while I had to unpack everything in the medical bag. The agent took the doctor’s note and IG medicine to be inspected while the rest of our supplies and medications slid through the X-ray machine. I still had to get off my shoes (why didn’t I wear slip-on shoes?!) and undo my belt before moving over to the “advanced imaging technology.” I was thoroughly patted down while my fellow passengers shot me glances of annoyance and pity. Our request must have raised a red flag, as my other bags were then unpacked and inspected.
After the screening process was complete, our IG and supplies were returned, and we repacked the bags and collected ourselves. I sat on the bench and looked at my daughter, feeling worn out. She smiled at me and quipped: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with passing airport security!”