I was heartened to read this NY Daily News article about improved results in a specialized surgery for chronic pain:
But I got to thinking, as I read the specifics of the procedure–what would I do if I had to go through airports with a live battery lodged at the base of my skull? That’s probably going to show up on the new whole-body scanners, even if it’s not caught in a standard metal detector.
The TSA does in fact have standard policies to deal with medical implants: here’s the Travelers With Disabilities section of their web site.
Because these implants aren’t new or at all common, here’s what I’d do if I had one:
* Talk to my doctor about airport screening. Will the metal detectors, wands, or any other screening devices mess up the calibration of my implants?
* Ask my doc for a letter describing the nature of my implants, and any special needs (such as “no metal detectors”) I have as a result of having them.
* Make photocopies of the letter, and carry at least two of them to the airport. Better safe than sorry!
* Plan at least 30-60 minutes extra time to get through security at every airport I enter. Security folks will probably be weirded out by the whole thing, and I would expect a certain amount of fuss and confusion when explaining my requirements, getting someone to read the doctor’s note, and getting a special screen completed. (Yes, this constitutes a huge pain in the butt. Air travel has become Like That(tm). I recommend taking deep breaths, relaxing, and rolling with it.)
* Be my own best advocate. Tell everyone I think can help about my situation, from the clerk at check-in to the ID checker at the head of the security screening line. Be friendly and disarming (ha ha), and willing to take the time to explain myself and my situation repeatedly. The less testy I am, the more likely that the security agents will respond pleasantly and efficiently to my needs.
* Bring my sense of humor. Laughing is always than screaming and crying in stressful situations. Always.
* Realize that in international airports, my mileage will almost assuredly vary. Frankly, I’d hesitate to travel to a country with known tight airport security (like say Israel), especially if I didn’t speak the language, with this type of implant. If you do plan to give it a whirl, plan ahead! Research airport security in every country you plan to visit–even if you’re not thinking you’ll need to fly from that country. Get your doctor’s letter translated into as many languages as needed. Talk to consulates and embassies–before you leave home. Knowledge is power, and the more you know about what you might need to deal with in a foreign airport, the better off you’ll be.