Standing in the security queue at Manchester Airport I felt like a bomb smuggler. I probably looked as shifty as one too as the moment I stepped up to the metal detector I was pulled aside by a female security guard. The alarm hadn’t even gone off, so there must have been something on my face that said ‘I’m hiding something’, or ‘I’m guilty as hell’. Or maybe they just spotted the growing bulge under my t-shirt. Either way the next thing I knew I was being pulled to one side and scanned, before being patted down by a very severe looking woman…who I wouldn’t have liked to have messed with let alone been found with drugs stuffed up my arse (on that note I literally did – not cocaine but a suppository for my Crohn’s/Colitis).
Anyway, the security guard was very disappointed. She didn’t manage to find a terrorist
or drug smuggler with a stomach filled with cocaine but a very worried young lady with a recently fitted ostomy bag. As her hands moved towards my abdomen my squeaky little voice spoke-up and warned her I had an ostomy bag and that she would be able to feel it under my shirt. She reacted sympathetically but I couldn’t help like feel like a criminal when I was dragged to one side, told to sit in a chair and remove my shoes so they could go through a special detector to check I wasn’t hiding I dunno knives or something in my shoe laces. I was then made to wait at the side while she deal with a few more people…I may as well as had a flashing sign over my head saying CRIMINAL..I could feel people looking at me thinking ‘what has she done, why is she sat at the side?’.
In the end I was led behind a curtain for my ‘private’ inspection, which involved me lifting up my shirt, undoing my pants and whipping out my ostomy and fistula bags, which chose at that very moment to fill up with gas, mucus and crap! The security guard and her extremely nosey friend ran a swab over both the bags before saying I was ‘ok’ and could go. I guess the swab was to make sure that Winnie wasn’t lined with cocaine or bags of cannabis for me to smuggle into Italy…which I guess it could have been but it wouldn’t have been the pleasantest thing to put up your nose or smoke afterwards.
Anyway, despite the fact I had been terrified of going through security with my ostomy supplies in my handbag and with my bag bulging under my shirt, it ended up being less scary than I thought. Ok, I hated being made to feel like a criminal, but by telling the security guard about my ostomy bag before she felt Winnie and thought I had something hidden under my top, I avoided a lot of embarrassment and a possibly problematic situation. My supplies in my handbag had no problems, they passed through the security fine, and I ended up not needing the doctor’s note or pass supplied by my delivery company, basically explaining they had to let me on the plane with my condition and bag changes.
The plane – we flew out with Monarch – ended up being ok. After all the horror stories I had read online, nothing bad happened. I avoided fizzy pop so that my bag didn’t bulge with air, and drank water to stay hydrated during the flight. I emptied my bag once in the two hour flight, and enjoyed slowly eating a wrap I ate at home. I managed to avoid any leaks at all during the journey and the journey back went just as smoothly – despite the fact we flew back with Ryan Air, an airline that has more horror stories than the average when it comes to travelling with IBD and medical conditions.
So if you want to go abroad and you have an ostomy go for it…what’s stopping you? If it’s fear or apprehension then stop it right now! I was terrified of getting on the plane for the first time, but after 13 years of living with Crohn’s/Colitis I realised that I always managed to fly before the operation – yes it was difficult and at times embarrassing, awkward and painful, but I coped even on longer haul flights – which I haven’t tried in a long time due to going to the loo 100’s of times a day. But if you are still worried I have put some tips below which will hopefully put your mind at ease.
Whatever you do remember that your ostomy is your ticket to freedom, it shouldn’t hold you back from anything. For the past 13-years I have let my IBD rule my life, I always thought I didn’t, but I now know that I did let it stop me doing things I wanted to do or should have experienced. That’s not happening anymore. I have finally had the surgery I dreaded, and yes I’m still getting used to living with my ostomy. Yes my health isn’t perfect still – in fact it’s pretty bloody awful at the moment – but it’s still the best I’ve ever been. So why should I be forced to stay in one country due to fear? I’ve heard of people who have waited years to bite the bullet and journey abroad with their bag…but now I’ve taken the plunge I want to carry on, to go further than any ostomate has ever gone before…how cool would that be, space with an ostomy!!!
Go for it!!! And share your experiences, snaps and adventures with us all…let’s start an ostomy world-wide revolution!
- separate your spare ostomy bags and other supplies between your hand luggage and cabin bag
- pack far more supplies than you need – 2 bags a day if you are worried about leaks and at least two sprays
- if you carry an adhesive remover spray in your carry on bag put it in a see through plastic bag, with all other sprays perfumes and lotions to go through security – might be a good idea to take wipes as well or instead
- put any bag cutting scissors in your hold case – they won’t get through security
- get a note from your GP or consultant explaining your medical condition saying that you need to carry medical condition on the plane – this is free and will get you through security or on the flight if there are any problems
- change your bag before you get on the plane so that you don’t worry about it – and use the secure tabs to add extra protection just in case
- get a special travel card from your ostomy suppliers – they will send it to you and it is in several different languages – Charter do a great one that you get your GP to sign and it will help you get on the plane
- be honest at security – if you get pulled aside tell them discretly but up front that you have a bag – it will be ok, trust me
- finally relax! enjoy the flight and don’t drink any fizzy pop until after the flight.