Just when you think you’ve heard everything…
I was reading on the TSA blog site today and I see over and over how the TSA employees swear that they are professional and courteous. But that’s just not my experience. At least 1/2 of the TSA folks I run into at the airport are rude and antagonistic. When I compare them to police officers, they seem a lot less professional when they have a “bad attitude.” Hopefully, shedding light on some of the bad apples will bring about some positive change. When I see stories like this, I think that we have a long way to go:
Thomas Sawyer uses a bag that collects urine; something common for people who have a had a gall bladder removed or other operation. He says he never had any problems with the bag until the TSA search. The search was so rough that his bag broke staining his t-shirt with a grapefruit sized yellow stain.
Really? Is that necessary? Am I the only one that thinks this whole security craziness has gone too far?
the fulll story:
TSA chief apologizes to Holt man for pat-down incident
A Holt resident who says he was patted down so hard at Detroit Metropolitan Airport that his urostomy bag was damaged has received an apology from the Transportation Security Administration.
Thomas Sawyer, whose incident has gained national attention, received a call from TSA chief John Pistole on Monday afternoon.
“He offered apologies, which was nice, and I accepted,” Sawyer said.
TSA spokesman James Fotenos said the agency is reviewing the incident, which came to light amid backlash against the government’s use of 10-second full-body imaging machines. Those who refuse the X-ray scan or are flagged during the scan are subject to a pat-down search that includes the crotch and chest.
Sawyer has lived with a urostomy bag for nearly four years and said he never has had an embarrassing moment in public.
But all that changed two weeks ago when the seal to the bag, which collects urine when a person has had his bladder removed or damaged, was broken during a security pat-down at Detroit Metropolitan Airport – something Sawyer said left him with a grapefruit-sized urine stain on his T-shirt.
“I still get embarrassed when it happens in front of family,” Sawyer said. “I felt like everyone was staring at me, but I don’t know what people were thinking.”
Sawyer said he is sharing his story to illustrate that airport security personnel need better training for handling people with disabilities, especially those with urostomy bags.
Sawyer said the man who patted him down didn’t know what a urostomy bag was and continued patting him down, not allowing Sawyer to explain his medical condition after Sawyer tried to tell him three times.
“That was the point that I felt I had no power and he had all the power,” Sawyer said. “I thought: ‘If I’m not going to do what he says, I’m not going to get on the plane or I’ll be arrested.’ ”
Sawyer arrived at the airport Nov. 7 with a friend to travel to Orlando, Fla., for a wedding.
He didn’t tell his friend what had happened after his pat-down, which lasted five to 10 minutes “but felt like an hour,” he said.
Sawyer hurried to the bathroom to clean up but didn’t think he had time to change before boarding his flight.
He waited until take-off to change his underwear and T-shirt in the plane’s bathroom. He threw away the soiled clothing and used the bathroom’s lavender-scented soap to mask the smell of urine, he said.
“I was so embarrassed,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer, a retired DeWitt special education teacher, was first diagnosed with bladder cancer 17 years ago. He had a tumor removed and received treatments for 1 1/2 years.
The cancer came back in 2006. Sawyer’s bladder, prostate, lymph nodes, nerves, ureter and appendix were removed.
That’s when he started using a urostomy bag.
Formerly a frequent traveler, Sawyer never had an issue with security until the body scan showed the urostomy bag that led to the pat-down.
He said he didn’t let the incident ruin his vacation, but brought it up when he returned to Michigan in a message board with the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network, where he is a board member.
Sawyer’s “Beware flyers!” post on the advocacy groups’ site led to calls for him to take his story to the media, and he did.
He e-mailed his story to the TSA, U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, and a number of news outlets.
“I was surprised the agent didn’t know what a urostomy bag was. He should have let me talk,” Sawyer said. “Obviously, he was not trained on that and I don’t believe he was the only (TSA agent) who didn’t know.”
Sawyer doesn’t plan to fly any time soon. He’s turned down offers to fly out-of-state for interviews, he said.
“It will be a while,” Sawyer said. “I need time to think this through and decompress everything. Hopefully by then they’ll have people trained properly.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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