A CRPS Patient’s Worst Nightmare: How the TSA Fails To Properly Deal with Disabilities

A CRPS Patient’s Worst Nightmare: How the TSA Fails To Properly Deal with Disabilities

By Katelyn O’Leary

Katelyn OLeary dress

Katelyn O’Leary

I go to the hospital twice a week and I am given IV ketamine to combat my CRPS. I rely on Access services, a transportation pool available to people with disabilities, and I use it often. I have over 12 medications, physical therapy options (through USC and other kind offers) and all of this makes me so exhausted. Keeping this information straight in my head is sometimes very difficult.

But all the meds and the pain makes me sleep less and I am prone to anxiety attacks. I avoid dance floors, not because I hate dancing (I love it) but because of the proximity of tons of people (who might smash into my bad leg). These new changes to my life frustrate me and are difficult to adjust to. So with these problems, I am always appreciative and am so grateful for the friends and family I have. Even strangers in public areas are nice, they open the door for me or even help me carry bags or food.

However, my last encounter with strangers in a public place did not go well. In fact it was humiliating, degrading, and caused so physical pain I vomited and dry-heaved.

While traveling back to California, I went through security at the Indiana International airport. When I limped through the body scanner, it apparently detected a heat signature in my groin. A TSA rep whispered to me (since women’s bodies are something to be ashamed of) that the use of tampons, pads, or other things can set off the alarm. I was wearing yoga pants and a t-shirt and I wasn’t menstruating. When they informed me that I would have to be patted down, I panicked. I told them they could pat me down but to please not touch my right leg. They requested a supervisor to come down and “assess the situation.”

The supervisor I had, let’s call her Ms. Benson, told me that the TSA officers would be gentle and that they were not looking to injure me in any way. I told her that if they touched my right leg I would scream in agony and would probably vomit. I explained to them what CRPS is, and that I also have severe allodynia (hypersensitivity so severe that even the slightest touch to my leg is painful) but this did not deter or make them change their minds.

I was taken to a private room and told that if I refused to be touched then I would be escorted out of the airport and that I could “come back.” I don’t live in Indianapolis and I’m not wealthy and I couldn’t afford to just leave and come back whenever. So I told them to get it over with.

The moment the officer touched my leg I started screaming and crying. I tried to jump out of the chair. Ms. Benson and the officer were both startled and alarmed by my reaction and offered to just send me out of the airport – but that wasn’t an option for me as I explained once again. Through my tears and dry-heaving I told them to please get it done and over with. And so the next 2 minutes of their required “patting down” consisted of my bawling hysterically and screaming to “please please just let me go home.” I dry heaved. I bit my hands. I couldn’t sit still in the wheelchair and instinctively moved away from their hands.

When they wheeled me out of that room, I was a complete mess. I was sweating through my t-shirt, dry heaving, and in so much pain I took way more medication than usual to combat the fire burning through my entire leg. Ms. Benson came over and offered water, a bag, anything I wanted to help make me feel better. I declined. I just wanted to get out of there.

Ms. Benson and her TSA squad were not incompetent nor did they harbor any ill will towards my well-being or safety. But they were extremely ignorant. And this is a problem not only for me, but for the thousands of people (young and old) who have nerve disorders and severe pain who feel too scared to travel because of pat downs at the airport.

I felt violated and traumatized after leaving Indianapolis.  And during my flight home I reflected on the incident and how I should react. I sent an angry email to the TSA complaint and procedures department. And they gave me several tips to ensure this doesn’t happen again by applying for Pre-check which would mean I would go through the metal detector instead of the body scanner. In addition they told me to contact the TSA passenger support screening assistance hotline and request a TSA officer or supervisor to get you through security and provide assistance. These tips were helpful.

However, there is more the TSA needs to do. The TSA protocols are not “one size fits all.” No one should have to go through severe pain because of an incorrect heat signature. In 2015 through a government audit, it was revealed that TSA has a 95% failure rate. Dan Reed, a Forbes Magazine writer and contributor, shared his thoughts on the matter one year ago. Reed completely tears the TSA apart with his evaluation of the audit ran back in 2015:

“If there was any doubt that the TSA screening stations were ever, or could ever be more than some annoying, badly-acted Kabuki Theater, last week’s TSA audit report put that to rest. ‘Red Teams’ from the TSA’s bloated, ponderous and only modestly more effective parent organization, the Department of Homeland Security, recently managed successfully to get weapons – mostly handguns and fake bombs similar to those actually used by the famous underwear and shoe bombers – past the screeners 67 out of 70 times. That’s a 95 percent failure rate. So, we are left to question why we bother to have a TSA at all? What good are they doing? Why do we spend $7.4 billion of our tax dollars a year on this agency? And why do we pay $2.50 on each airline ticket we buy to pay for it? The oft-quoted (and apparently apocryphal) “Einstein’s definition of insanity” – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result – would seem to apply here. So it comes down to us – ordinary Americans. After all, we’re the ones who cried “Do Something!” so loud after 9-11 that the shocked members of the 107th Congress did something – something hasty and stupid –  and created the ineffective and buffoonish TSA. Lots of security experts at the time knew that what Congress wanted to do would be ineffective, and said so publicly. But the public’s demand for immediate action ruled the day. Now it’s up to us to tell the current 114ths Congress to “Do Something” again, only this time they need to ”Do Something Smart!” –  and to stop wasting our money on Security Theater” (Reed, Dan. Forbes Magazine. 8 Jun. 2015.  The TSA’s 95% failure rate: Be Careful What You Ask For When Demanding Congress ‘Do Something. 7 Sept. 2016.).

Given this report of inadequacy, I think it’s time Homeland Security did more than audit. There needs to be a protocol for disabled passengers who simply wish to travel without getting hurt. Of course there are options offered by the TSA. But since the TSA has proven to fail at every level – there should be a lot more consideration and possibly new standards set and new people implementing them.

My email to the TSA was forwarded to the TSA HQ Disabilities Branch for National Consideration. I’m not going to give up fighting for fair and equal treatment for patients with CRPS – or other serious and painful disorders. I urge and implore each and every one of you to share your stories, and to email them to the TSA and discuss them here in the comments section. Here is a link to their website: https://www.tsa.gov/contact.

The TSA’s main goal is to keep passengers safe. But they have proven to fail at that. So not only are we not safe, but we are enduring agonizing safety checks. The American public needs to stand up and initiate change.


Image courtesy of www.tsa.gov

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Authored by: Katie O’Leary

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I believe the TSA is now interested as I’ve seen the RSDSA is asking for RSD patients to participate in a survey.

Please go to their facebook page for more details and the link to see if it applies to you.

Katelyn OLeary

Thank you for your comment and your suggestions! It is much appreciated.


Katelyn, Thank you! This is an important issue that you have brought up. TSA is tasked with ensuring the safety of the plane. 99.9% of the agents you will encounter have absolutely no desire to cause any pain or distress during screening.
Unfortunately, effective listening skills or any listening skills at all are not part of training or routine process at TSA.
Making sure that the plane is safe and not causing delays to flights are paramount.
If you have a visual clue such as missing a leg , it is easy for a screener to react accordingly. If you have an agonizing condition which is not visually asses able, you just fall thru the cracks in the system, and can undergo an agonizing experience such as yours.
I believe that a two way dialogue is imperative. Educating TSA in effective listening, AND empowering agents to initiate, at the passengers request, individualized screenings. ( Darn all. there goes our national budget, and the flying public will just holler about the thousand of TSA agents just standing around) . Meanwhile, each individual passenger who has had a horrible experience can document it as suggested to DHS, and Organizations and individuals and family members can recommend PROACTIVE actions for travelers who have pain or disabilities which would make standard screening procedures uncomfortable ,agonizing or impossible.
Meanwhile, please use the one resource that we have up to now. TSA cares and thru them, request. a passenger support specialist, to assist thru screening.

L Cooper

I’ve had similar experiences with sadistic TSA employees. While in a wheel chair I was forced to stand for several minutes, wobbling back and forth, trying to find something to hang onto so I wouldn’t fall. I was in extreme pain but did not take my pain meds so that I could be more alert for this tortuous procedure. After I got through the screening, I was also “randomly” selected for a further search. I asked what I suspected of and was haughtily told it was just “random.” Yeah…right.

I get the impression they pick out the disabled so they can be sure they never have to confront a real smuggler or terrorist. I’m an elderly white female, severely disabled, in constant chronic pain and when I asked what they were swiping wet pads through my carry on for, they said “explosives.” Ridiculous!

Lisa Webb

Jeff Poleet, before you attack someone you should read up on RSD/CRPS. It’s extremely painful disease and yes, it is the worst one to have. It’s listed as the worst disease pain wise about everything! ! You apparently have no empathy. You had to right to say anything about yoga pants, I wear them as well because they ate much lighter than sweat pants and jeans are impossible, even a slight breeze to our skin is excruciating. Sometimes having to wear any clothing is nearly impossible but we can’t all go around naked. I’m not writing this to attack you in any way but am trying to make you and others more aware. Luckily when I flew I had my disability card, my implant card any many other documented paper work to prove to them ahead of time what they are dealing with and they were very nice. You however are very rude and I pray that you will NEVER have to deal with pain that is so bad that causes vomiting, anxiety etc….

Katelyn OLeary

Jeff Poleet: Fact: The McGill Pain scale ranks CRPS as the most painful condition on earth. Above amputation and giving birth. So yes, it is scientifically proven and backed up by research and doctors. You should call UCLA’s and Keck Hospital of USC for more information about CRPS. It sounds like you don’t know anything about it, while accusing me of being ignorant about my own condition. Which really doesn’t make sense. Knowledge is power in any situation, especially when we have pain or disorders. Also. You didn’t read my article. I noted above that no one from the TSA was incompetent nor were they awful people. Never once in my article did I state “I shouldn’t have to go through security.” What I’m saying is – security personnel should be gentler or even offer “dropping” pants to prove I’m not hiding shank in the folds of my yoga pants. Which they did not. And I was too scared to even think about it. Yoga pants. Seriously? Not that it’s important (that’s the detail you are zoning in on?) is that I wear yoga pants 3x the size of my body. Sweatpants I wear an XL because loose pants are best. But I thought a tunic and baggy yoga pants was a better idea since, I don’t I have autonomy over my clothing choices? I should think it would be obvious I would pick clothing that I myself am comfortable in… You say: “how do you even put pants on when you can’t stand to be touched.” Great question. Answer – sometimes my leg hurts so much I wear no pants, and I have to lie in a hospital bed, and I’m exposed/embarrassed to doctors, nurses, medical students you have it. All the time. Do you know why I wear pants? Society dictates that I can’t be pants-less in public. I never once stated in my article that i should get whatever want, do whatever I want, and be treated better than every American flying today. You have HYPERBOLIZED your entire argument. Your tone was insulting, knowing nothing about my condition or the conditions these people on the site have. Furthermore, your comment offers nothing more than you hoping to hurt and cause trouble. And to be clear: I believe anyone in chronic pain deserves to be treated gently and that options should be available. We can do that. America has smart people. Or do you think we cannot advance our own military/safety organizations? Lastly – I can’t drive a car more than 10 Miles. You mentioned “sucking it up” and finding an alternate way to get from Indianapolis to Los Angeles. And you are incorrect – I sucked it up AND flew home. So if you have anything to add – be respectful, ask questions if you don’t understand something, and read what I said. I did not demonize anyone. I criticized. You don’t understand my pain. Don’t attempt to tell me how to deal with it. It is… Read more »

When I have to fly, I count my pills and put a label on the prescription bottles AND on a plastic box that I put the bottles in. The label says, in red: WARNING: PILLS ARE COUNTED. BOTTLES ARE TAMPER-EVIDENT. I make them tamper-evident by sealing them with clear tape.

My last trip to the airports to DIA:
Security officer: “I need to take your cane”
Me: “I can’t walk without it.”
Officer: “well you can’t go through with it I have to scan it.” *rips it from my hand*
Me: *grabs side of conveyor quickly to catch self from falling.*
Officer: “come through”
Me: “I can’t walk without my cane.”
Officer: “I need you to come through”
Other, nicer security officer: *sees me struggling to stand* “here is a wood cane you can use”
Mean officer: ” walk through”
Me: *walks through*
Mean officer: “step to the side.” *ushers people past me*
“What’s this?” *Points to SI brace*
Me: “it’s an SI brace”
Officer: *whispers to another officer, takes swabbing material and swabs entire brace.*
Me: “really?”
Officer: *takes wand detector and moves it over my entire body twice. Says to other officer. “It’s going off, what should I do? Have her remove that thing?”
Other officer: “it’s probably just those big metal buttons on her skirt.”
Mean officer: *scans again with wand, then starts very painful pat down*
Me: *winces in pain*
Officer: *finds nothing*
Other officer: ” just let her go”
Me: “thank you!”

Finally after about 20 min of being embarrassed, having my cane ripped out from under me, scrutinized, and un fairly singled out I was able to leave security to get to my flight.

Jeff Poleet

What did you want them to do, just let you limp through the security screening without being checked? How is touching you causing you more pain than your tight yoga pants or sitting in a chair, walking, etc.? I don’t understand why you are so upset, and honestly, your post is very dramatic and hyperbolic. If you can’t be touched, period, then you need to figure our a way to travel that doesn’t involve flying in a plane with other people. You are not the only person on the planet, and the world cannot bend to your every whim, no matter how much pain you are in. I have chronic pain as well, and no, your condition is not the most painful on the planet, although I am sure you think it is. The practical reality of your existence is that if you want to fly, and you are setting off security equipment, you are going to draw attention, just like every other person on the planet. Crying, vomiting, having anxiety attacks, etc., do not make you immune from having to be checked by security. If it did, then guess what terrorists would be doing. I am not a fan of TSA for a lot of reasons, but you knock the TSA for lax security, then get upset when they want to do their jobs, and you can’t have it both ways. If you can’t be touched then get a female agent and drop your pants so they can see you don’t have a bomb strapped to your leg or anything else in your crotch. How do you even put pants on if simply being touched hurts you so badly that you start acting out and vomiting? None of this makes any sense. If you can’t be even lightly touched than you can’t sit on a plane, you can’t wear pants, especially not yoga pants. Either suck it up and do what you have to do or don’t fly, those are your options. Do you expect TSA to risk everyone’s life on the plane and on the ground because you have a pain disorder? The world doesn’t stop spinning because we are disabled, and you don’t get to put everyone else’s life in danger because of it.

Bob Schubring

A now-retired TSA supervisor had to arrest one of his officers. A passenger who’d had oral surgery, entered the screening line with 8 Vicodin in the prescription vial, in her purse. The officer illegally removed 6 of the Vicodin and placed them in his pocket.

The supervisor just happened to be training another worker on the use of the surveillance camera system recently installed, saw the officer steal from the package, stepped out of his office, flashed his badge at the surprised passenger, and got her to count the Vicodin tabs in the package. He got two airport police officers to back him up, confronted the crook, recovered the 6 stolen pills and made an arrest.

The crook asserted as his defense, that he was disabled because he was a drug addict. Said the crook, his addiction gave him the legal right to steal other people’s medicine.

The judge gave him 6 months in prison and 5 years probation, to learn why that was not the correct meaning of the law on disabilities.

Moral of the story: People do stupid, stupid things. We’d like to think they take their duties seriously.


Kim, I would strongly urge everyone who has any concerns or conditions at all, or has had a bad experience with security to contact TSA CARES well ahead of your travel date,
and REQUEST TO HAVE A PASSENGER SUPPORT SPECIALIST guide them through the screening process. This is a service TSA can provide which can make the whole process much smoother and less traumatic Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity .Sadly that does not always happen. A passenger support specialist can go a long way towards ensuring that the screening process is conducted with all due concern and respect for the individual.
Email TSA Cares
(855) 787-2227
Federal Relay: 711
8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET
9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET

At TSA News, we’ve been exposing the crimes and abuses of this agency since 2011. And many of our writers have been doing it on their own for longer than that.

Unfortunately, nothing will change, because most Americans don’t give a sch*t. They don’t care about their bodies or their rights or even those of their children. Their only concern: “Just get me to my flight on time!”

As long as people keep flying, this abuse, which is routine, will continue.

Susan Richart

Katelyn OLeary, don’t take Mog’s comments as gospel. What she wrote makes it fairly clear that she was NOT a TSA screener – or she was one of the screeners who doesn’t know SOP or the rules, i.e., TSA doing a strip search at the behest of the police. That would NEVER happen, far too many legal issues there.

Katelyn oleary

Thank you for your advice!!!!

Stacy Cooper

I was not told why my backside was getting scanned. I was gropped in public and never told why and I asked!

Katelyn OLeary

To Mog:

The TSA agent I spoke with directly after I went through the body scan said it detected a heat signature. If you are correct, she wasn’t informed of the proper terms and did not even know what the machine does. Again – ignorance.

Also Mog, I told them clearly I have CRPS and explained the symptoms, explained my treatments, and I even told them about my ketamine infusions and showed them my crutch. I explained Allodynia, my sympathetic nervous system, my surgeries and my status as someone who is in chronic AWFUL pain.
I communicated clearly and without error.

Also mog: I was wearing yoga pants and nothing underneath. Commando! And these aren’t baggy or hoisted by a belt or by anything but fabric. I wore no metal, no wire, nothing that could be confused with anything metallic.

Also Mog: CRPS is the most painful neurological condition on earth. It ranks higher than childbirth and amputation. And i feel that pain every day. I’m sorry many TSA workers are annoyed by their “thankless” job. But their feelings doesn’t come close being
in the same universe as my pain. If there is a TSA officer with CRPS God bless you ma’am / sir. You are my hero. And of course I don’t want to be rude, I don’t want to make a scene, and in fact you will notice I never said they were incompetent or unkind. But again – if we can put a man on the moon we can figure out how to detect a bomb in someone’s pants. And we will.

Finally: thank you for your input. I truly appreciate your comment and sharing your experience.

Susan Richart

One additional comment. Every time you are mistreated by the TSA, file a complaint. But file it with the DHS Inspector General’s Office, NOT the TSA. Here’s a link to file that complaint:


You should also request CCTV coverage of the screening. You do that by contacting the authority that operates the airport NOT the TSA :


Remember, there is no CCTV coverage of a private room patdown and even if you take your own witness in there, the witness is not allowed to film whatever goes on in that room so


Susan Richart

Mog writes: “Sometimes, yes, you will be asked to take your pants down if the object in question can not be identified by a pat down.”

Then in the very next paragraph Mog writes: “Also this idea that TSA stripe search people is bs.”

Which is it, Mog? Isn’t dropping one’s pants a strip?



In response to ‘a’-

After my incident I did think about the challenges they face and the fact that someone could use a disability as a cover to try to sneak something on board. However, seeing so many disabled passengers inappropriately handled shows a clear need for a procedural change in training of these agents. Until that happens, they should be reminded how to communicate. Both speaking and listening prior to doing any pat down or search. This could help minimize injuries during security screening if they actively participated in the conversation instead of being a robot. I also believe there needs to be an easier way to report incidents to hold specific agents accountable for their behaviors on the job. (They have a variety of options in screening passengers. They should be able to effectively choose appropriate screening to ensure safety for both the passengers on the plane and the person going through security no matter what is written on the ticket. How did they get the job if they lack the skills to logically choose between them?)

I know that if I ever have to fly again, I will have someone record any search or pat down done if I’m ever forced into that situation again. As my youngest daughter told me she watched the TSA agent turn off a security camera/monitor for the area in where my pat down was being done. Convenient for that camera to ‘go offline’ during my incident, don’t you think?

People dont want to bypass security. We just don’t want to be hurt and mistreated by TSA agents. We deserve to come through security uninjured without feeling so violated. The pain flares they set off don’t just last while they see us.

Christine Hawkins

I know this has nothing to do with your pain .But when I saw you were taking ketamine if they’re doing group studies on this 4 people suffering from depression. With pretty good results. II know my back pain causes depression with me because I’m limited to what I can do. Hard for me because I had a good job and I was happy and all the sudden my back cause I had a botched-up back surgery and now the pain is in another part of my back not to mention my sciatic is messed up


Let me preface this comment with, I am a prior TSA agent and I’ll be the first to say I hated the job and a lot of things make no sense. That being said there’s a few things the author presents as truth and I know for a fact they arent. The scanner doesn’t detect heat. The biggest problem with passengers is that they don’t take the time to understand how the machinery TSA uses works. It detects anomalies. That is it. Anything that isn’t normal will show up. Paper, your belt buckle, pads for menstrual cycles, money belts, tissues…extra skin you have from a fat reduction procedure. Anything. That’s why TSA say take everything out of your pockets. Next if the anomaly is in the groin, the only way they can resolve that anomaly is a pat down that extends from your waist to your hips. This is policy. Yes agents take into consideration you may not want to do it, and let’s be honest, I never wanted to touch anyone’s groin area, passengers are filthy and disgusting, but they have a job. That job mean they have to be sure that you aren’t stuffing anothing in your pants or in between your legs and using the uncomfortable situation to bypass a pat down, and yes people do this all the time. I’ve found guns drugs money … cheeseburgers in the crotchessential of passengers. We don’t make this up. As far as what occurred in the private screening again, they have a job and they can only accommodatever passenger so much without jeopardizing there job, which is to be certain that you have nothing in the groin area that is a threat. Sometimes that means multiple pat downs by a few agents so they can compare what they felt to the other agents and determine if it’s ok or not. Sometimes, yes, you will be asked to take your pants down if the object in question can not be identified by a pat down. In those i say wait until you pass security to stuff your pants with whatever. Also this idea that TSA stripe search people is bs. Tsa doesn’t have the mandate to do so. The police can ask us to perform one while they are watching but the decision to just do so isn’t TSA. Lastly TSA agents aren’t mind readers. They don’t know about your problems unless you tell them or have it written down. Most will do their best to accommodate you through the screening process but I don’t know of any that will let you bypass the process because you’re crying. Sorry to say, but their jobs aren’t worth keeping people pampered. As a prior TSA agent i can say getting fired from there will ruin any chance of having a career in the future so yeah many take their thankless job serious. No dont get me wrong if you are being abused or whatnot that is a different story and i dont… Read more »

These stories are just another example of why Chronic pain passengers need to at least turn the audio recorder on their smart phone and/or those traveling with them be back in line a couple of spots while doing a video of what is going on… and then sending these recording to the national media. The TSA needs to be embarrassed more often… concerning the incompetent people they hire and/or train.

I think a Change.org petition with a quarter million signatures or more might help. Raise awareness of the petition with YouTube vids and hopefully get national attention.

Those wands are metal detectors and do not need to touch skin at all. TSA seems to be selecting for sadists in the same ways prisons choose guards. I am profiled for “additional screening” because the agent working the carry-on scanner was barking orders at me and I told her I have several disabilities that make it impossible for me to move as quickly as she wanted, and that there was no need to shout at me. Now every single time I fly I get pulled out for the “feel you up” treatment. One time they demanded that I put my service dog through the luggage scanner! Um, no. Not even for their twisted amusement.


Any solutions/suggestions as to how TSA can unequivocally make sure that a passenger is not a threat to the plane,without excaberating existing conditions, would be welcome to the 50,000 plus agents, tasked with making sure that each and every flight is safe

Jeff Warner

As a person with Ventricular Fibrillation, half of my left foot, pinned with metal, and a severe case is Menieres, I have been subject to numerous pat downs, a complete strip search in a secure room, which was not secure, questioning about the prescription drugs I carry in bottle marked as prescription with my name, Doctors name and phone number, I have found the TSA the most uneducated group of inept McDonalds illegal employees to ever be employed!
In one incidence, I was clearing TSA, with my wife! Totally empty pockets, no shoes, no belt, but my hearing aids which they said were fine! As I passed the screening, they questioned my pacemaker, which I opened my shirt to show them, handed them my ID card from Boston Scientific, and was escorted to a holding area! While waiting, my Menieres kicked in with the vertigo attack, and I had to vomit! Alarms went off, and everywhere I managed to look was a ignorant TSA Agent as well as incompetent police officers!
My wife attempted to explain, but they ignored her and questioned me as Inkept vomiting and was unable to stand without falling due to the vertigo. Fortunately, we had three hours before our flight.
Being in Pennsylvanis, and having all of my documentation from California, did not help. No one was available for hours in California.
Fortunately, a senior Police officer approached and asked me some questions! I answered and he said his mother had Menieres, and frequently had vertigo attacks. As for the pacemaker, he said the Boston Scientific card fully explained it. The last question was about my foot! I stated it had been lost while in Vietnam, in combat, and also showed him my bullett wounds! That ended everything, and with is apology, they not only escorted mt to my gate in a wheelchair, but boarded my first with an upgrade to first class!
I really appreciate the Police at the Philladelphia Airport for having some one who understood what I was undergoing!
I only wish the TSA had a few like the officer that understood me. They were so inept and ignorant it was shocking! I was 64 years old, had my birth certificate and passport, was with my wife of 42 years, visiting our relatives in PA, and a Vietnam veteran! I felt treated like a criminal, not like a human.
We have not flown anywhere since in the past 5 years!

I am so sorry that happened to you. I have also been assaulted by a TSA pervert who enjoyed herself between my legs through my tight leotard, which I thought would demonstrate that I had no bombs in my underwear, but seemed to backfire as it aroused the desire of this woman to grope me. In public. I’m a serial rape survivor, and this episode triggered me beyond imagination. I will not fly again if I can possibly avoid it. Is TSA above the law? Is there no way to sue them?

Stacy Cooper

I too experienced the most humiliating thing only I was just a walk-in because I was putting my daughter and her 2 old and newborn on a flight from San Jose, California back home to South Carolina. I had the butt pat between my back and underwear. I had an unsuccessful back fusion and told them please don’t touch my back. I was crying and just asking them to get it over with too. I declined the private room and stood there crying and in pain looking like a criminal. But I’m worse than a criminal, I’m a chronic pain sufferer living in a world full of non compassionate robots! I asked why and asked if it was because of the Fentanyl pain patch I have to wear on my back and no one explained why I was being pulled out of line and patted down….it is actually scary to wonder at what stage did I become a suspect?

Bob Schubring

The simplest solution that’s consistent with safety, is for the CRPS patient and the TSA officer, to go to a room, or curtained-off privacy enclosure, and allow the patient to drop her trousers and show the officer, for visual inspection, the part of her body where the thermal scan revealed an anomalous heat signature. The reason that obvious solution did not occur to Kaitlyn and also did not occur to the TSA officers, is that they were experiencing the psychological phenomenon known as Panic. In a panic, we instinctively recall every skill we’ve got, that we know to 100% certainty, would get us to safety. Kaitlyn, in her panic, needed to get on the plane. She knew from past experience, that if she screamed until she was exhausted, the pain flare caused by a stranger grabbing her leg, would not knock her unconscious but would leave her exhausted for some time. What we don’t immediately see, is that the officer was also panicking. The Nigerian suicide bomber who tried to kill everyone on a Detroit-bound flight a few Christmases ago, concealed explosives in his underwear and had lit a smouldering fire in them…an “anomalous heat signature” is what would have resulted, if he’d lit the fire before walking through screening at London Heathrow. By sneaking some means of ignition on board, he was able to light the fire in the toilet and return to his seat, and cover himself with a blanket while he underwent the obvious pain of a smouldering fire burning his butt and groin. We know all these details of the Nigerian’s case, because he, or whoever assisted him in making the underwear bomb, did not understand what an adiabatic shock is. The explosive they used, requires adiabatic shock from a detonator, to get it to explode…it was designed that way during the Cold War, to be used to compress a critical mass of fissile matter together and create a nuclear explosion. Fearful that a nuclear weapon might accidentally blow up and kill millions of our own people, both sides in the Cold War invented this class of explosive, called “plastique”, mindful that an accidental fire should not lead to a nuclear explosion. Without an adiabatic shock, provided by a detonator, plastique smolders and won’t explode. Upon seeing an anomalous heat signature, the TSA officers were afraid that Kaitlyn’s underpants were on fire and about to explode, killing her, and anyone standing too close. Kaitlyn was afraid she’d get a pain flare, miss her flight, be stuck in Indiana and separated from her meds, and yes, that pain flare feels quite nasty, thank you. However, that policy ignores the reality, that Kaitlyn could have saved herself a tremendous amount of pain, by agreeing to remove her own clothing and show an officer what was in her underpants. The officers never offered her this obvious option. This is an Americans With Disabilities Act claim that should be brought in the courts. Kaitlyn is entitled to be paid damages.… Read more »


I had an incident while flying from Phoenix to Milwaukee to my Mother-in-law’s memorial service. It was horrific. I felt completely violated. This lady was far from sensitive.

My husband and two daughters were pulled off to sit on a bench and informed if they even stood up there would be trouble. This TSA agent that forced me through security first asked if I could stand, unassisted for four minutes. “Um, I’m in a wheelchair with a cane in my hand,” I thought. I asked If I could walk though the metal detector with there cane while they checked my wheelchair and cane, which had been done numerous times while flying between Phoenix and Indianapolis during the past 10 years. “It’s not on your ticket.” I’ve never had anything written on my ticket prior to state this either. So, then she informed me that I would have to go through a pat down.

Omg. I was almost ready to miss my flight. I did tell her why I was in the wheelchair. What CRPS/RSD is where it affects me etc etc. She then tried showing me how she would barely touch me on my left arm by rubbing the back of her had on my arm. I told her even the slightest touch will hurt, but I understood it had to be done. Well, she didn’t do that type of touch to my bad areas. She literally grabbed them with a firm grip. Not once, twice…but three times. I guess my screaming in pain was something she enjoyed. The tears coming down my face seemed to feed her power trip more.

I’ll never forget the looks of the complete strangers trying to understand what was happening and worse, my family being blocked on that bench watching me screaming in pain. My husband was told he’d be detained if he even tried to get near me.

After if was over, we barely made our flight. The flight attendants were amazing at trying to help me calm down from the TSA pain infliction incident.

It took me weeks to get out of that flare. The nightmares still happen. I am afraid to fly. PERIOD. I shouldn’t feel this way. No one should fear an agency here to protect us except those trying to bring weapons etc aboard our flights.

Leah Rae

My heart breaks for you. I also have CRPS and last year I traveled fro LA where I live to Kentucky where I was visiting friends and family for the first time in many years. On the way home I had a layover in Las Vegas, and I was traveling with my emotional support animal, a 9 pound Yorkie dog. I was told I would have to exit the airport (because my animal is not considered a service dog, but rather emotional support) to allow my dog to urinate and re-enter. I did so, and on the way back, I was stopped at security and told all passengers with animals had to be “wanded down.” My CRPS is in both arms. I explained I couldn’t tolerate touch and this would not be possible. I asked for an accommodation for my disabilites, and I was told there was no accommodation they could offer me. Since I needed to get home to LA, I told them to be as gentle as possible and get it over with as quickly as possible. They were extremely hostile, and hurt me immediately by pressing the wand firmly into my bare skin on hands and arms. I reacted my pulling away in pain, needing to take heavy pain medicine, and having to request a wheelchair as I was now unable to walk due to excruciating pain. I was unable to complete the painful process of being “wanded down.” I explained about CRPS and allodynia, but they didn’t care. They told me since I was unable to complete their standard process (wanding down) I would be unable to fly. My partner immediately flew out to rent a car and drive me from Las Vegas to LA. Although I complained to TSA, they literally did nothing. Someone will need to sue them, but they will just claim national security. I think a grassroots direct action campaign demanding reasonable accommodation is in order. Who is with me?


I also have allodynia though not as severe as yours. The agent did not tell me she was going to put her hands down my waistband (my waist is an area of my most severe allodynia) and she also pretty much groped my genitals quite intensely. I was humiliated and near tears. The only thing she said she was going to do was patdown my butt (which would have been fine.)

I filed a formal complaint and got a flurry of activity and then nothing. I reached out and was told that it was still being investigated but my complaint was nearly 4 months ago.

I’m so sorry you went through that.

C. M.

Please look into Angel Flight. They are all across the country & they fly patients for free because they care. No pat downs, no long lines.
A flight from Indiana to California probably would have been done in two ‘legs’ as they call it, possibly three. That entails that 2 or 3 pilots would have taken you a certain distance & another picked you up for the next distance.
Usually they do this so patients can get to an appointment. Since you were getting care in Indiana I am sure you would qualify.
Please look into this wonderful organization. They truly are Angels on earth. Also sometimes called AngelMedFlight,


Katie Olmstead

Katelyn, I am horrified but not surprised by your story. Thank you for sharing it far and wide. For you, this was an assault, and 100% unnecessary. A nightmare. It makes me sick to just read this. I am so sorry.


Im soo sorry for your troubles Katelyn. I am a CPP and also a frequent traveler. TSA is completely inept and a waste of our time and money… instead of selective profiling they seem to like to pick out people with disabilities at great rates. It could be you, it could be the WWII hero who wears a colostomy bag who warns the TSA about knowing how to properly pat down people w colostomy bags…in which the TSA completely ignores and proceeds to dislodge a part and this hero gets himself and clothing covered with the contents and has to then board a plane and fly like that… On top of all of this they are the BIGGEST narrasicts in all federal government. The way they flaunt their ultimate authority while making $12/hr really gets me… They DO NOT keep us safe… my dear friend works for DHS as an explosives expert. He builds the bombs that they sneak through in tests… they couldn’t pick out a bomb if it had.. THIS IS A BOMB stamped on it! Just a few of my favorite TSA moments… 1. My 15 min questioning of what my 10.1in Samsung Tablet was…. SERIOUSLY…they did not know what a tablet was. 2. I have expedited security as part of the ticket i purchase.. one trip i get into that line as i normally do… the female tsa agent who checks ids says to me “excuse me what are you doing there”.. im standing in line! “The line starts back around the corner”… “um i have expedited security”, I replied. “OH WE DONT HAVE THAT HERE”. I said,” are u sure?” YES OF COURSE I. AM… so i turned around the sign that im standing next to that displays this line to be the expedited security lane. “WE DONT USE IT” she very nastily replies after being proved wrong… FINALLY a supervisor comes up and escorts me through line then… 3. One trip i went through a scanner no issues, got pulled aside while getting my things and said id been “randomly” selected for further screening… i was patted down and all the contents of my bags examined. Ok i guess i randomly was picked.. is what it is.. i have nothing to hide. Then right before the plane boards 3 TSA agents show up and stand next to gate… One is same gentleman who pulled me out before “randomly “. The same gentleman stops me while boarding again and tells me ive been “randomly ” selected for further screening… i literally thought it was a joke and laughed… he didnt.. and asked me to let them pat me down and go through my bags… i said ” u remember 45 minutes ago when you “randomly ” did this right”? Yes youve been randomly selectted again..lol… i said ” im starting to think its not so random and you just must like touching me” lol smartass i know but at a certain point my repect is… Read more »

Susan Richart

NEVER GO INTO A PRIVATE ROOM WITH THE TSA!!!!! It’s a violation of the Administrative Screening protocol. As difficult as it may be, you need to be patted down in public so that other travelers can see what the TSA does to people.

United States v. Skipwith, 482 F.2d 1272, 1275
(5th Cir. 1973):

“Moreover, the possibility for abuse is minimized by the public nature of the search. Unlike searches conducted on dark and lonely streets at night where often the officer and the subject are the only witnesses, these searches are made under supervision and not far from the scrutiny of the traveling public.”

A private room with the door closed and most likely locked is unavailable to “the scrutiny of the traveling public”.

PreCheck is a scam and no one is guaranteed to receive it. In fact, if you limp through the WTMD your are likely to get a patdown anyway.

TSA Cares might help, but they are not going to get you out of a patdown if screeners determine that you need one. TSA is notorious for not being gentle when asked to be.


“Been there, done that” as the saying goes. Same CRPS – right leg (from a sprained ankle), allodynia, open lesions. Lessons learned – use an airport wheelchair, pushed by an airport person, to get through the airport; some airlines offer a free seat to an official companion – use both of these services if you can. Carry all the prescription meds in their bottles, in your purse or carry-on, so the security people can see them, carry a letter from the doctors and pharmacy, so the security people can read them. There may always be someone on a high horse who will bully you anyways, but this all helps, and at the very least you can say in your follow-up email that they read and saw all this and deliberately chose to ignore it. Perhaps this will result in some more training for them.


Government proves itself incompetent everytime it takes on a new project. With bureaucracy there’s no room for people or situations that don’t fit into their checklists and procedure manuals. Many of us find this out when dealing with social security disability and other such programs. Your story is horrific and all to common. There’s no CRPS form or epilepsy protocol or parent of adult child with mental handicap forms for them to go to when the standard precedes won’t work. It’s well past time for all of us to demand less bloated government of our elected officials. Be well


Katelyn, I can’t believe what I’m reading. I have also had the same experience (as well as other bad experiences with TSA). I was in a wheelchair and stumbled through the body scanner when I was stopped because they detected something in my groin area — just the same words you wrote. There was no quiet or sensitive conversation, however; it was a very public experience! I had on a short dress (a very hot day in S. Florida) and after I got back into my wheelchair they sent for a female agent and gave me my options. If I could stand up for just a minute they could quickly pat me down or I could go into the private screening room but it would take longer and be a more intensive search. What did that mean, I thought? I am obviously too old to have been wearing any protective female undergarments, so I just had on panties. But I told them just to get it over with like you did, but it was in public. I was so humiliated and I had to stand on each leg alone. It took much longer than they intimated so I was wobbling and shaking and in a lot of pain. The female officer was rude and short with me as I was quiet and cooperative. I was embarrassed and felt like a criminal. The man who was pushing my chair and handling my things was waiting ahead of me and I saw him look at me and roll his eyes. He later told me that the procedure was handled in a ridiculous and unnecessary fashion. He was angry just like me!

I will write to them and tell my story, you bet! I am supposed to leave on a flight again this Thursday, however I am dealing with a “surprise” heart condition and the doctors may not let me fly yet. Whenever I do go I will pay extra attention to detail. This incident made me further dread flying — something I used to enjoy so much — and along with the cramped seats, which cause pain because there is no room to move a little just to stretch out a muscle or two now and then, (and I am a small person), I am not looking forward to any flights. (I like to fly Delta for their seats but I can’t always get a low fare.)

Thank you for writing this. I will share and do what I can to represent all of us when I make my comments.