In our series, ANONYMOUS RANT, we let ostomates groan and gripe about things that irk them.
Manchester Airport, are you there? Someone needs to contact me to discuss the lack of medical awareness of your security staff.
I am 28-years-old and I live with an ostomy bag which I have to wear 24/7. It’s essentially a bag which always sticks on my stomach to collect waste from my stoma, which is intestine surgically attached to my abdomen.
During my travels as I was walking through your body scanner, a heat source appeared on the screen in the area where my bag is attached. I was then patted down and scanned with the metal detector. I’m a regular flyer and this is very common, so I have absolutely no issues here. As I was patted down, the security officer went over my bag area several times. Again, I'm okay with this.
At this point, I perhaps should've pointed out that I had a medical condition which would have saved the embarrassment of what happened next.
Your security officer began to yank on my ostomy bag through my shirt which was very uncomfortable as it is attached to my skin. I said, “whoa, what are you doing?” To which he replied, “take it off.” I then proceeded to reveal my ostomy bag in front of everyone watching.
He then said again, “Take it off.”
To which I replied, “You want me to take my shirt off?”
He said. “No, this,” as he held my ostomy bag.
I could not believe what I was hearing. It is clearly a medical device which is stuck to my stomach, not exactly something that I could remove from my body. I literally have no idea what this officer was thinking as he asked me to remove it. I explained it’s an ostomy bag and it collects waste from my intestine and it can’t be removed — otherwise, he as well as the airport terminal will be covered with feaces. He then asked me to sit down in the chair and swapped at my ostomy bag without fully explaining what was going on.
I got absolutely no apology, not offered to be taken to a private space or shown any compassion whatsoever for the medical condition I must live with every single day. I cannot believe this person’s complete ignorance. Surely, he must see people with ostomy bags on a regular basis? He must have received some sort of training on people travelling with medical equipment?
Manchester Airport, do you care? I’ve been informed that you previously refused staff training from Stomawise on how to better deal with situations like this.
“They have refused any training from Stomawise or to even complete our 'Ostomy Friendly Airport' award as most other airports are following. Any complaints should be addressed to Ashley in their customer services dept as it was his decision.” – John Walsh, founder of Stomawise
I appreciate that security has a job to do, but your team needs to understand some of the challenges that people try to overcome when travelling with a stoma, including anxiety and stress. These issues are not helped when security staff swabs our ostomy bags in full view for others to see, or tugs on the bag and asks that it be removed. All I’m asking for is a basic understanding of medical conditions such as this, and that we are treated with respect. If further inspection is needed, then offer to be taken to a private room instead of asked to expose our ostomy bag in full view of everyone around.
Although some of your customers with a stoma may have had a smooth experience getting through security, I've received many complaints from ostomates that clearly shows this isn’t the only occasion where your staff made people feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. Please follow suit of most other airports and reconsider taking part in this training — clearly, it's needed.
I am quite a positive person with regards to my bag and try not to let things like this annoy me, but airport security needs to understand that their actions could cause someone’s confidence to be absolutely shattered into a million pieces. More privacy and understanding is required for people in my situation.