Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Blame It On The Sea Urchin

Apparently, an unplanned side effect of my surgery has surfaced....

My son was on a mission trip to Puerto Rico with the church youth group, and he and a friend were scheduled to return two days early so that they could attend Missouri Boys State. I was to pick them up at the airport in Tulsa and bring them home, and the friend's mom would take them to Boys State the next day. In the meantime, however, my son managed to step on a sea urchin on a beach outing and had to be taken to the ER on the little island on which they were staying. Sea urchins, by the way, are nasty little bastards that leave their spines behind when stepped on and cause a great deal of pain.

The mission team leaders made arrangements for my son to have a wheelchair take him to the gate for each of the three (yes, three) flights that it took to get them home, but, as he could not put any weight on his left foot, he would need crutches to get around once we left the airport. After a plea on Facebook, I found a set of crutches we could borrow (thank you, Jennifer!), so I loaded them in the car and set off to pick up the boys.

At the airport, I carried the crutches inside and roamed around a bit until I figured out where the boys would arrive. Looking at the map, I saw that it was a long haul from the gates to baggage claim and didn't know how far the wheelchair service would take him. There was an information desk nearby, so I asked if there was any way I could go to the gate and be there when the boys got off the plane, in case Kyle needed the crutches there. The information desk attendants said it shouldn't be a problem, since he was only 16, and sent me to the American Airlines ticket counter.

The agent at the American counter could not have been nicer and gave me a pass to get inside the gate area. Still lugging the crutches with me (and wondering why I didn't leave them in the car until I found out whether or not the wheelchair could be taken to the parking lot), I went to the gate area and presented my pass to the poker-faced Homeland Security agent on duty. He gave me the stink eye, which I nearly called him on, because I hadn't even said a WORD, but then I remembered a little incident where I got smart-mouthed with a surly Border agent at Niagara Falls and, wisely, kept my mouth shut.  (Now that I have had some time to cogitate on this, I concede that it is entirely possible that he looked at me like I was a freak because I was, after all, carrying crutches and not using them. Just a thought.)

Next, I continued to the screening area. Shoes off, purse on belt, crutches on belt. No problems.  Me in full body scanner. Problem. As soon as I stepped out, I was stopped by security. The image of me showed something suspicious in the boobular area. I looked at the screen, and there was my silhouette, with a blotch on my chest.  For crying out loud, I thought we had RESOLVED all suspicions in that area! A female agent, rather apologetically, said she had to pat me down, meaning she had to feel my boobs. Which she did. (I resisted the impulse to say, "Aren't they AWESOME?") Apparently, I passed that test, as well as the one where my hands were swabbed with a little towelette to check for traces of explosives. 

May I just take a moment to say WTF?! Why did one of my boobs light up the body scanner? And why only one? (I thought it was the left one, because I was seeing it as a mirror image, but now I don't know which one it was.)  Did Dr. Geter leave some kind of surgical detritus in there? Did one side need to be shored up more than the other? Is this going to happen to me EVERY FREAKING TIME I go through airport security? This was NOT on my side effect list (but neither was the insanely unfair period that surprised everyone except the oncologist). 

In retrospect, I could have easily met the boys where they exited the gate area and taken the wheelchair all the way to the parking lot and avoided the whole airport security experience. But how much fun would THAT have been...? I blame it all on the sea urchin.


  1. I just clicked over here from the VP Biden TToT and this is fantastic. So what about your boobs made it light up the scanner??? Did you ever find out? How bizarre.

    1. I HAVE NO IDEA! I called my plastic surgeon's office the next day, and he called me back personally and told me he hadn't used anything metal in my reconstruction. My oncologist checked the chest x-ray I had had done a few months earlier, and he said he didn't see anything and thought that scar tissue may have been the reason it went off.