Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Travel jitters

With summer vacation time rapidly approaching, you may be feeling anxious about the physical challenges of air travel. Guest blogger Andrew Shortall is here with some tips and anecdotes.


“I’m sorry sir, would you step over here, please?”

These are probably some of the most dreaded sounds and words for an XLH’er but I’m here to tell you they don’t have to strike fear into your being! I've been travelling internationally for many years. Being Irish, my osteotomy implants have almost always set off the metal detectors in Dublin airport. And when questioned, I explain that I have surgical implants in both my legs. A mere wave of their detector wands and seconds later, I'm free.

The most personally invasive experience was in Chicago O'Hare in 2009 when I was returning to Ireland. Naturally, my appliances set off the detectors and I was called aside by a very kind and respectful gentleman of what is now the TSA. I mentioned the metal, and he asked me to follow him a few paces to a small, private room. He asked me if I minded showing my surgical scars, which I didn’t. But really, how in the world can I hide them? I rolled up my pants legs and showed them to him. And to be quite honest, it was HE who was more embarrassed at having to ask.

And that’s why you don’t need to be afraid. The TSA and their counterparts around the world understand that millions of people have surgical implants, be they joint replacements, skull plates, or in our cases, plates and pins. Personally, I view my scars and metal as trophies. I won them on the hard road through my treatments. I don’t feel self-conscious about them now, as they have been a part of me for a long time. And I’m proud of them!

Finally, as summer rapidly approaches, many of us will choose to take a vacation and fly to our destinations. I’ve looked through the TSA website, and I’m impressed with how accommodating they are, even with today’s need for such increased security measures. While their primary concern is safety and security of air passengers, they also focus on passenger comfort, respect and dignity. Here are some helpful links:

This page is the launching pad for medical and disabilities information:

Here you’ll find information most suited to XLHers:

This page provides advice for anyone with limited mobility:

In all cases, you need to speak to the TSA at least 72 hours before your flight. This will make their job easier, and will help reduce your stress and worry about the checkpoints. It’s also highly recommended to speak to your airline, as they will provide mobility assistance upon your arrival at the airport, and throughout your flight, should you need it.

And while this post is written primarily about the USA, I know from personal experience that similar procedures are in place around the world. Speak to your airline, and the airport authority well in advance of travelling. They’re all there to help!

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