DISABILITIES

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By Daniel J. Vance


Earlier this year, I featured Ellen Boldt of Brooksville, Florida, in a column about her efforts founding the Hernando County Ostomy Association, which has members that use a colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy. An “ostomy” is a surgical opening that allows waste products to drain outside the body or into an organ.

Boldt has been wearing a urostomy 35 years. Recently, she joined my “Disabilities By Daniel J. Vance” Facebook page and emailed an uncomfortable account of going through a full-body scanner at Tampa International Airport.

“I was there June 19,” said 81-year-old Boldt in a telephone interview. “They were scanning everyone that day and this was my first time through one. When I stepped on the platform, they told me to raise my arms. I assumed they knew what an ostomy bag looked like. I'm sure I wasn't the first person with one to go through since the scanner became operative.”

With a full-body scanner, the security person could see right through her clothing.

Said Boldt, “As I got off the platform, a man with his arms crossed blocked my way. It felt intimidating. He asked if I had anything in my pockets or had a belt on. In my hand I had a card from the United Ostomy Association, which explained I had an ostomy and the equipment I might carry with me. Before I could hand it to him, a woman guided me to another area.”

Without warning, this security worker began patting Boldt down. Boldt backed away. The worker asked if Boldt would faint. She said, no.

And then: “I handed over the United Ostomy Association card, but she ignored it. She kept patting me down and when she got over the ostomy, she said, 'What you got there?' I had to explain the purpose of an ostomy. It was embarrassing. I was shaking so badly I barely made it to my gate.”

Boldt wanted to report the incident, but after going through the ordeal and having waited so long in line, she feared missing her flight. She was traveling alone to New York.

Her advice to ostomy users: “Next time, I'm making sure to tell about my ostomy bag to the person checking the boarding pass before (going through) the scanner. I want those workers to be educated so no one else has to go through the embarrassment. ”

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