Today was my first experience with flying while carrying Enbrel. The best way I can describe it is that I felt like a loser… At first, before I flew, I was really nervous. I called the hotel first to see if the rooms had refrigerators in them. Of course, they do not. So I had to explain to the guest services woman that I was traveling with needles and that I had to keep the medicine refrigerated. She was very friendly and said she would make sure to have a refrigerator placed in my room for my arrival. Awesome, she was very friendly.
Next I called the airline. I read a lot about how you shouldn’t check enbrel in your checked luggage because it could freeze due to the temperatures. So, you have to keep it in your carry on. I could just imagine how that would go over at the security check point. So, I called the airline to ask. Of course the first thing she said was “That’s a TSA problem, not a *insert airline here* problem.” First off, I apologize if my having to give myself shots is a “problem” for you. I really don’t mean to inconvenience you. Ugh. After that though, she pulled up the TSA website and read through it and told me that I would need to pull it out of my bag and be sure to travel with a sharps container as well to show I was disposing of the needles properly, etc. The final point she made was to make sure I kept my ice pack in a ziplock bag since it was a liquid, just frozen. Ok, whatever.
As you may remember, my garb is pretty nice. The sharps container and the needles fit together in the bag and an ice pack slips in the back- looks more like a lunch bag really. It’s nice, it’s pretty inconspicuous, you know except for the word “Enbrel” posted all over it. Well, this morning as I packed up some last minute items, including my ice pack, I grabbed my box of injectors- my first one was packaged by itself, so I underestimate the size of my new pack of injectors (which is 4 of them). The box doesn’t fit in the bag with the sharps container. at all. I was too afraid to remove one of the injectors from the pack in case it got screwed up or the needle broke being shuffled etc. So, I had no choice but to remove the sharps container and pack it separately.
I arrived at the airport, checked my bag, and got in line at security. I unloaded my laptop and ipad and removed my sweater and shoes and then gingerly took out my Enbrel bag followed by the sharps container and placed them in a bin. You would have thought I pulled out a friggin’ machine gun the way people started staring at me. I wanted to yell at them but I didn’t have the energy and figured it won’t be worth it. As I waited to push my bins through the scanner, a security guard came over and told me I had been randomly selected to have my hands swabbed (yeah right). She swabbed my hands.
I pushed my bins through and walked through the xray scanner thingy. As I knew would happen, they stopped my Enbrel bin to stare at it for a while in the machine then decided they need to investigate further. They picked up all of my things and carried them over to a separate security area and opened up the lunch bag and inspected the injectors and swabbed the inside and outside (even though I gave them my signed doctor’s note). After about 20mins. more I was cleared. I thought my travel troubles were over.
Then I got to the hotel. I checked in and asked if it was on file that I needed a refrigerator. The guy said yeah, for your injection medication, right? More stares from surrounding people. I replied yes. He said it would be right up. I came to my room and waited for an hour or two and it still hadn’t come. So even though I had called ahead and checked again when I arrived, I had to call again. I felt like a jerk but whatever. I don’t want 4 injections going to waste. The woman apologized and sent someone up about 5 minutes later. Now I have happy Enbrel.
Long story short: traveling with needles can be humiliating
Lesson learned: people really have no idea what it’s like to give yourself injections or rearrange your life around your medication.