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Thursday, 3 December 2015

Next Departure: Sensitivity

I think there's a lot to be said for proper training in the work place and certain jobs regarding people with Chronic Illnesses. If there's a possibility that you are going to have a conversation with someone about their chronic illness, then you should probably know how to actually have that conversation.

Whether it be that you work in chronic illness, work at a hospital, doctors surgery, medicare, pharmacy, manufacture goods relating to chronic illness, police officer, bus driver or security guard.

For some of these the training required might be less intensive. A bus driver just needs to know that he can bend the rules of the company if the need arises or how to accommodate someone with a chronic illness or disability. They do make allowances for the disabled on a daily basis, and I have smashed a popper down more times than I can count despite the blaringly obvious 'No food, no drink' rule. Thankfully, I have never had to explain why I've decided to chug one down mid-trip. I can only assume that the drivers have received proper training. Or that they've given up completely and are just driving in a mundane stupor waiting eagerly for the end of their trip.

For some, the training is obviously not intensive enough.

I travel quite a lot for work and family matters. My work sees me running patient education days in every state of Australia throughout the year, and my husbands family are settled at seemingly random areas of the country.

I catch a lot of planes. I've got diabetes down pat when I catch a plane. I've got my entire plane routine down pat, from the way I pack my bag to the clothes delegated as travel only comfy clothes.

My travel only comfy clothes, through no particular care or thought, cover my pump. It's not on display. Somehow last week my shirt had gotten all bundled up and tucked in to my pants and my pump was on display as I walked through airport security.

My bag full of syringes, needles, cannulas, insulin and other diabetes paraphanelia got through just fine. I don't think the guy staring at the screen even looked twice.

I did not get through just fine.

I've never been held up for diabetes before.

I walked through the metal detector. It of course, did not go off and I walked forward to collect my bag.

"Is that an insulin pump?" one of the many security guards inquired.

"Yes" I nodded, feeling relieved that he knew what it was, and thinking there wouldn't be questions about why I hadn't taken it off for screening.

"Right. In here." His manner had changed. I was pointed in the direction of a cordoned off area.

"Sorry, why?"

"Just stand in there." I had no idea why I was all of a sudden being asked to move to a different area, away from my husband and belongings.

"Ok. But can you explain what's going on?"

No answer, just a more pronounced motion for me to walk where he wanted me to walk.

I'm used to the 'random' drug swipes that I 'randomly' get selected for everytime (I think they do have a private signal to select you for this when they spot needles/syringes in your bag because it has happened for every one of the 20+ flights I have been on since being diagnosed). I wasn't being told to go to the random drug test guy. I was being told to go away from him.

So I stood in this little cordoned off area, with this security guy glaring at me. I felt like he was sizing me up. I didn't know why. All I knew was that there were no problems until he saw my insulin pump. Which I had a doctors note for. Sitting in my bag that I wasn't allowed to get.

"Ok. Go back through the metal scanner."

"I still don't understand what's going on"

"Just go back through the scanner."

I didn't want to miss my flight, so I didn't argue. So I walked back through the metal scanner. Again, nothing happened, Nothing ever happens.

The guard held up his hands for me to stop before I collected my bags again.

I could see random drug swab guy staring at me and ignoring everyone else who walked past him.

"Ok. Get your bags and walk forward."

I was immediately directed to random drug swab guy. No surprise there. It was obvious by this stage that I was being treated like a criminal because I have diabetes.

My pump was the only thing he swabbed. Nothing came up and I was reluctantly let go.

Without any explanation about why I was treated like I had done something wrong. Without the process of what they were doing ever being explained to me, despite repeatedly asking them. There were 5 security guards in the area. None of them had the bright idea to explain to someone why they were being singled out for having accidentally displayed their chronic illness.

My husband didn't understand why I was upset, because they were just doing their job. I'm fine with them doing their job, which is to stop drugs and weapons and stuff going through the airport. I wasn't fine with the way they acted when doing their job. Clearly, part of their job needs to include some sensitivity training. Airports make me nervous enough without being led away without explanation and asked to stand separately from everyone else. If they had bothered to explain, it would have been a completely different experience for me.

For someone with diabetes, these experiences can have follow on effects in terms of glycaemic control.

Lesson learnt. I will make sure to hide my pump every time I go through an airport now.

Today's reason why I'm hypo:

3 days without incidence. Would it be obvious if I told you the last place I hypoed was at the aiport for my return journey? Because I had anxiety going through security given my previous interaction with them.

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