ROMULUS (AP) – A Michigan man with bladder cancer who suffered a rough airport pat-down that caused his urostomy bag to spill its contents on his clothing last fall said he was mishandled by a screener at the same airport earlier this month.
A security agent’s aggressive pat-down in November caused the lid of Thomas Sawyer’s bag to loosen, spilling urine on his shirt and pants. Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole called Sawyer to apologize and pledge an investigation into how screeners handle passengers with sensitive medical conditions.
“I thought that I had really made a difference for people flying with urostomies, I really did,” Sawyer told the Detroit Free Press on Friday. “I’m angry this time. They can’t be training them properly.”
Sawyer said he went through security July 14 at Detroit Metropolitan Airport for a flight to Orlando, Fla., when a screener disregarded his warning that he had a urostomy bag beneath his untucked shirt.
“He said, ‘Yeah, I know,’ and he patted me down – he was rough and he squeezed the bag a couple of times,” the 62-year-old Houghton Lake resident said. “The young kid was anything but gentle, and he didn’t ask me if I wanted to be screened privately.”
TSA guidelines on passengers with disabilities or medical conditions say private screenings should be offered.
The agency “takes every passenger’s claim seriously. We are reviewing the circumstances surrounding this passenger’s screening to determine if the proper procedures were followed,” spokesman Jim Fotenos told the Free Press.
Sawyer was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2007 and treatment left him with a urostomy bag that catches diverted urine.
Larry Rzepka, executive director of the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network in Bethesda, Md., said the group was aware of the latest incident but hadn’t spoken Friday with Sawyer or the TSA.
Rzepka, whose group has been among those advising the TSA, said the advocacy network hopes the agency will make quick improvements in screening of people with illnesses and disabilities.
“At the same time, we understand the tough job the TSA has,” he said.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.