Learning Curve

Diabetes devices and TSA pat-downs.

Kerri SparlingBy

December 2012 — I ended up in the line with the body scanner, instead of the x-ray machine, so I decided to opt out and go for the pat down.

"Female assist on five!" the TSA agent hollered from the mouth of the line, where I was waiting (shoeless).

A woman came up, her hands pressed together in front of her. "I'll be doing your pat down today?" She was a strange combination of excited and nervous, and I didn't realize why her sentence ended with a question mark until I saw the other woman standing next to her.

"She's training. I'll be supervising the pat down, and she'll be performing it."

"And I'll be enjoying it." I replied.

We went to a slightly quieter area, where the standard pat down procedure began. My arms out, palms out, and feet firmly planted on the little yellow "feet" they provide as a guide on the floor mat. The trainee gave me the speech about what she was going to be doing, how she would be doing it, and asked if I have any sensitive areas.

"I have an insulin pump clipped here," I pointed to the bulge on my hip, "and it's connected to my body here," pointing at the back of my hip. "I also have a medical device attached to my thigh, here," I said, pointing to the outside of my right thigh.

"Oh. Okay. I've seen an insulin pump before. I've never seen the other thing. Would you mind showing us? We need to have a visual on that."

"Sure, that's never happened to me before, but I don't mind." Since I was wearing shorts, it was easy to hitch up the hem a bit and expose the Dexcom sensor in full.

"That's... okay. That's a medical device. That's what that is," said the trainee, nodding affirmatively. "I wish I has some familiarity with it so I could move on quickly, but I do need to ask my supervisor about this. Do you mind waiting here?"


She walked a few feet away and consulted with her supervisor. The supervisor came over to me and examined the sensor on my thigh. "You wear that for diabetes?"

So I showed them the receiver, and explained how the sensor was essentially pulling glucose values from the fluid between the cells in my body.

"Interstitial fluid, eh? Like the jelly between the cells? That is amazing."

I laughed. "Exactly! The cell jelly."

The trainee nodded again. "I'd be inclined to call that ‘celly,' just for the record. We have some diabetes in our family, but no one wears any assistance devices. And I appreciate the explanation, because now I feel like I've covered the learning curve for diabetes devices for these kinds of pat downs."

"The learning curve must be steep. I'm sure you see all kinds of things doing this job."

"Celly doesn't even scratch the surface of it, ma'am."

Visit Kerri's website.


dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: June 14, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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