To Declare Or Not To Declare, That Is The Ostomy Question…

To Declare Or Not To Declare That Is The Ostomy Question

To declare I have a stoma or not to declare?

Let me explain how this question arose.

My stoma bag was flagged as an issue when scanned!

On the outbound journey of my recent travels around Europe for business, I decided to treat my wife to a new bottle of perfume (I know, I am such a great husband). It wasn’t until the return journey that I realised this may have been a mistake. I had purchased the 125ml bottle of perfume after I had passed through security at Stansted. On my return, in Belfast, I now had to take my expensive 125ml bottle of perfume through the 100ml outbound security limit! Imagine my surprise; the perfume was not flagged as an issue when scanned…however, I was! Even after taking off my belt and shoes, I still failed the scanner check. In Belfast they have upgraded from the normal ‘pat down’ to a new electronic scanning system. You basically stand in a pod and the scanner makes a 360 degree sweep around you. It then, by the magic of technology, displays any areas of interest. I assume these are abnormalities, lumps and bumps from what it has been programmed to think the ‘average’ human body looks like.

You can probably now see the reason for my original question. The machine had flagged my stoma site as an area of “interest”. I was then called over to be patted down in the traditional way, but focusing on this area.

Most people have no idea what a stoma is

Now, I know there are plenty of ostomists in the UK and Northern Ireland, but like me before my op, the rest of the population probably have no idea what a stoma is. Would this airport security guard have a clue about this strange bulge on my stomach with liquid inside? As I wear a Midi bag, I must also add that the bag contained what felt like over 125ml of liquid (I had been queuing for 30mins and my flight was shortly after dinner!).

What should I do? My stoma nurses hadn’t covered this when they told me about the new challenges I would face as an ostomist. In this situation, I’ll be honest, I panicked. I didn’t say anything and ironically the security guard patted down the area, seemed happy and sent me on my way.

I would hate to make a scene unnecessarily

Whilst on the return flight, it made me think. Should I declare that I have a stoma? I would’ve hated to make a scene when one wasn’t necessary. I am happy to tell people I have an ostomy bag, but would I want to be escorted to an isolated room to be searched? In these security conscious times, should I be concerned that the security guard hadn’t noticed? Or had he?

During my previous journeys, I had passed through security with no issues. I asked some friends in an ostomy group about their experiences. It was definitely a mixed bag of responses.

The stoma travel certificate: a “passport” for your ostomy

Since this flight, I have found that you can get a passport of sorts for your ostomy. A small wallet-sized card or travel certificate (such as the one that SecuriCare supplieshere) that explains in several different languages what the strange bag of liquid stuck to your body actually is. I have decided that, being a forward-thinking ostomist, next time this occurs I will use this travel certificate and explain. My logic is that perhaps not all airport security guards are educated on what an ostomy bag is. By highlighting this to them in a professional way, perhaps it could save someone else the embarrassment of it being discovered.

I fly to Belfast again in only a few short weeks and I will be declaring, “I’m an ostomist” if I am stopped at airport security.

If one new person learns what an ostomy is and they educate 4 others, and they then educate 4 people, well…you get the idea.

Would you declare that you have a stoma bag at airport security?

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by Scott Smith

Scott Smith

About the author

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and bowel cancer. I had to have a major operation leaving me with an ileostomy. In a few short months I was discharged from hospital - back into my 'normal' life - changed forever.