Prosthetics Become Source of Shame at Airport Screenings
People with medically sensitive conditions distressed by TSA treatment.
Nov. 24, 2010— -- Prosthetic devices were designed to help men and women move on with their lives despite potentially stigmatizing medical conditions, yet they've become a source of distress and humiliation during the new pat-downs by airport security agents.
There's already been outrage over the TSA agent who asked a Charlotte, N.C., woman who survived breast cancer to remove a prosthetic from inside her bra. There was also a bladder cancer survivor from Lansing, Mich., who said he was soaked in his own urine when a TSA agent's pat-down ruptured the seal on his urostomy bag.
"Do these agents have any human understanding that ostomates have these appliances because they have had cancer and the appliances are the aftermath of a battle that was won!" Thomas D. "Tom" Sawyer, a retired special education teacher, posted Monday to the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network online support group on Inspire.com. "I happen to wear mine with pride but I am also very private about it. The last thing I needed or wanted was to have urine leak in an airport and feel that all the world was looking at me."
Monday afternoon, Sawyer got a phone call from TSA Administrator John Pistole.
"He apologized and asked what I thought should be done," an exhausted Sawyer tweeted to his Twitter followers. "Our message was heard in Washington D.C….My job is done."
Sawyer encountered what mental health experts call micro-aggression: "an act or a situation in which a person in more power subjects a person in less power to either an assault or an insult. They're very cumulative," said psychologist Rhoda Olkin, a professor at the California School of Professional Psychology in San Francisco. They also can lead to depression and anxiety.
""The micro-aggressions that happen to people with disabilities are so ubiquitous," Olkin said in an interview with ABC News. "Now to have it when you travel, at such an egregious level, makes just one more place where you're really disadvantaged."