I just got back yesterday from an excellent vacation, and I wanted to share my experiences w/the scanners/TSA. I hope others will share their experiences too.
Both of our flights were at around 7 am (no way could I have done that before, my guts were way too active in the morning!), so these stories take place at 6:15 am or so.
On the way out, leaving Boston, I got motioned through the scanner, so I showed my blue, supposedly official card to the TSA agent, who passed it on to the agent on the other side of the scanner; neither looked like they'd seen it before. I said I had a medical device that would show up. I explained to the agent on the other side that I had a "bag of poop" and pointed to where it was.... it took her two tries to hear what I was saying, then I just blurted, "So please don't be rough, it won't be good for either of us." She very gingerly touched my waistband, then called for another female agent, and they took me into a storage closet(they need to have two people there apparently). I was talking all along, partly because I talk when I'm nervous, and partly to just try to connect w/them so they would see me as a human being etc. I said it wasn't gross to see the bag, and they had me pull it out, touch it with both hands, and tested my hands for explosives. I said at one point that the surgery had made my life so much better, made it more possible to travel. One woman asked what I had it for, and when I said Crohn's, she got almost excited and said that her friend might have that, and asked what it was, and I did some IBD 101 with her -- she was very engaged.
She asked me if I would always have to have a "colostomy bag," and I realized that I should call it that, not an "ostomy bag" or not the world "ileostomy," as she didn't know what Crohn's was, but she knew what a colostomy bag was.
An annoying part was that they wouldn't let me take anything into the room with me, even my shoes. My partner collected my stuff (they said that if I were alone, the TSA agents would collect it). But all in all, I felt OK about it .... it was connecting, and maybe I made it a little easier for the next person w/an ostomy they encounter.
On the way home, in Albuquerque, I told the agent before the scanner that I had a medical device that would show up, and he said it wouldn't -- without even asking what it was! Then I got curious, because I wondered if being so proactive was a bad idea (my take was that they will be calmer if they're not surprised, but maybe I was just drawing attention to myself). Well, it did show up, and same deal, two female agents, a little room, none of my stuff with me including shoes..... but this time they wanted to do a full pat down. I asked if they wanted to see the bag, and the woman looked horrified, and said no very quickly. I would have been very freaked out by the pat down when I was younger, but i am so used to medical exams now, that it wasn't that big a deal. Again, they tested my hands and the hands of the agent who patted me down.
They said they do this about six times a day and most of what they find on people is wads of cash.
I'm thinking that in the future I might just skip the scanners. I know it's not a ton of radiation, but why get it if I'm going to have to get a private screening anyways?
Now my partner and her daughter got the metal detectors both times. I think the secret is to be a kid or a parent traveling w/a kid. In ABQ they sent everyone I saw but them through the scanners.
I guess like a lot of things, there's a choice in attitude here. I think I will expect this kind of screening every time, but it is so trivial compared to how sick I used to be, so a small price to pay. I was thinking that this could be a lot harder for younger males w/ostomies who look closer to the stereotypical image of a terrorist.....
I think someone probably could smuggle something bad in an ostomy bag..... of course, it's a lot less likely if the person actually had an ostomy!
I'm interested in hearing other people's experiences.
48 years old, female.
2004 dx indeterminate colitis. Back and forth between Crohn's and UC dx. Many drugs, minimal success.
2010-11 Crazy skin and eye complications, high fevers, bad flaring. Out of good drug options, tired of scary drugs.
Feb 2011 -- proctocolectomy with permanent ileolostomy; abscess, blood clot. Still healing, still glad for the surgery