May 8, 2012 at 7:24 PM ET
Many travelers find airport screening an annoying and frustrating experience but for 16-year-old Savannah Barry, a recent trip proved both humiliating and potentially life-threatening.
Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes four years ago, the Colorado teenager says TSA screeners forced her to go through a full-body scanner in Salt Lake City last week, breaking her $10,000 insulin pump in the process.
According to Sandra Barry, Savannah’s mother, her daughter was coming home from a school trip when screeners required to her to go through a full-body scanner despite the fact that the girl had a doctor’s note describing her condition and stating that she should be given a pat-down rather than subjected to screening machines.
“Believe me, being 16 and female, she probably doesn’t want the pat-down but she knows that this is what’s required,” Sandra Barry told msnbc.com. “She tried to advocate for herself and they just shut her down.”
Upon hearing of the situation, the elder Barry called Animas, the maker of Savannah’s pump, and was told that they couldn’t guarantee that the screening machine hadn’t damaged the pump and that her daughter should take the pump off as soon as she landed.
“It was hard to pick her up and tell her she had to disconnect immediately,” said Barry, who says the family has filed a formal complaint with TSA but has only received an e-mailed response requesting a conference call to discuss the incident.
For Barry, the issue goes beyond the specific incident involving her daughter. “It’s bigger than diabetes — there are other people with other medical conditions that need to opt for the pat-down,” she said. “That’s why we’re questioning the education and training of these agents.
“It’s not a one-time thing and we’re going to keep putting the pressure on them.”
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, TSA said "the passenger has reached out ... regarding her screening experience and TSA has attempted to contact her in response."
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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.