TSA Chief Apologizes to Traveler with Ostomy

By Harriet Baskas
|  Monday, Nov 22, 2010  |  Updated 4:45 PM PDT
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TSA Chief Says Sorry After Pat Down Burst Ostomy Bag

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A traveler undergoes an enhanced pat down by a Transportation Security Administration agent at the Denver International Airport on November 22, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.

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A retired special education teacher who said he was left humiliated, crying and covered with his own urine after an enhanced pat-down at airport security said he received an apology Monday in a phone call from Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole.

“First he apologized,” said Thomas D. “Tom” Sawyer, 61, of Lansing, Mich. “And I thanked him. Then I told him off a bit. And he said, ‘Tell me more. What do you think needs to be done?’ ”

 

Sawyer said that he suggested to Pistole that TSA screeners undergo more training to better understand travelers with medical conditions.

Related: Tell the TSA 'Don't touch my junk'

“I offered to attend a general staff meeting to show the staff what an ostomy bag is and help with that training,” Sawyer said. “Pistole said he just may take me up on that.”

Sawyer is a bladder cancer survivor who now wears a urostomy bag, which collects his urine from a stoma, or opening in his abdomen. An msnbc.com story on Saturday detailed Sawyer's Nov. 7 experience flying from Detroit Metropolitan Airport to Orlando, Fla., to attend a wedding. Sawyer said he was ‘humiliated’ after an enhanced pat-down procedure broke the seal on his urostomy bag and left him soaked in urine.

He said he tried to warn the security officer that “he would hit the bag and break the seal on my bag, but he ignored me. Sure enough, the seal was broken and urine started dribbling down my shirt and my leg and into my pants.”

 

Humiliated, upset and wet, Sawyer said he had to walk through the airport soaked in urine, board his plane and wait until after takeoff before he could clean up.

He said that he accepted Pistole's apology.

“It made me feel good,” said Sawyer, “It means that my voice was heard all the way up to Washington.”

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