The TSA isn't exactly known for its sensitivity, a reputation that Fort Worth resident Melinda Deaton experienced first-hand Wednesday morning while enroute to a medical appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
The Texas grandmother says she was pulled aside and patted down by Transportation Security Administration agents at Dallas Love Field airport after they noticed a gastric tube hanging from her stomach, which had been medically implanted after complications with a gastric bypass surgery.
"When I pulled my shirt out and they catch a glimpse of it, they both go, 'Ugh!'," Deaton said in an interview with Dallas-Fort Worth news station WFAA. "I said, 'Thank you for your professionalism.'"
According to WNBC New York, Deaton said agents also swabbed the tube for bomb-making material, putting her at risk for infection. "Any time you put a harsh substance on it, you run the risk of contamination," Deaton's husband John Deaton told NBC. "They put stuff on there that we don't know what it is and identify. She has a weak immune system as part of her medical condition, and it can be very fatal to her."
In addition to searching her behind a screen and not in a private room, Deaton says TSA threw out her containers filled with applesauce and pudding, soft foods she's required to eat due to her medical condition.
On its website, TSA cautions passengers that some types of foods that exceed 3.4oz should be placed in a passenger's checked luggage. Though it also set up last year a toll-free helpline for travelers with disabilities and medical needs.
In an online introduction to the helpline:
TSA recommends that passengers call approximately 72 hours ahead of travel so that TSA Cares has the opportunity to coordinate checkpoint support with a TSA Customer Service Manager located at the airport when necessary.
Earlier this year the TSA announced new guidelines that would loosen security restrictions for travelers over the age of 75.
"By moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to security and applying some intelligence-driven and risk-based security models, TSA is looking at how this works for passengers," agency spokesman Jim Fotenos told the Associated Press.
The trial run was only set to take place at a limited number of airports, however, including Chicago's O'Hare International, Denver International, Orlando International and Portland International.
"We respect the right to privacy of the passenger in question and will reach out directly to her," a TSA spokesman told WFAA in a statement regarding Deaton's complaint. He added that an investigation is underway.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the Mayo Clinic is in Minneapolis. It is located in Rochester, Minnesota. We apologize for the error.