SEATTLE — A woman dying from cancer says a security pat down at Seattle’s Airport left her embarrassed in front of crowds of people. She says screeners checked under her bandages and refused to give her a private screening, as she requested, after she even took steps to prepare for the screening process beforehand.
Michelle Dunaj is angry and says the search by the TSA crossed the line. Dunaj said she tried to do everything right for one of the last trips of her life, but says the TSA humiliated her.
Dunaj is dying of leukemia, and carried a large amount of prescription drugs through Sea-Tac last week for a trip to Hawaii. She called Alaska Airlines ahead of time for a wheelchair and to ask how her medicines should be separated for the security line.
“I did everything they asked me to do, so I didn’t think it would be an issue,” Dunaj said.
During the screening, Dunaj said nothing went right. A machine couldn’t get a reading on her saline bags, so a TSA agent forced one open — contaminating the fluid she needs to survive.
Because of organ failure, Dunaj also has feeding tubes in her stomach. She says agents made her lift her shirt to pull back the bandages. With passengers staring, she asked for privacy and says she was told “no.”
“They just said that it was fine — the location we were at was fine,” Dunaj said.
The TSA says “officers are trained to perform pat downs in a dignified manner, and at any point, passengers can request a private screening with a witness present.”
Clearly, Dunaj’s request was not honored.
TSA’s website has information for those traveling with wheelchairs or unusual medications and asks passengers to contact them directly.
Dunaj says she doesn’t want others with special needs to have the same bad experience. Dunaj’s says her final days are too precious to spend a single moment being mistreated.
“When somebody wants to take a trip, especially what I call an end-of-life trip, because you want to see your family and friends, then it becomes more important than just taking a trip,” Dunaj said.
A TSA spokeswoman says it’s against the agency’s policy to deny passenger’s private security screenings if they request one.