SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – A dying woman says a a security pat-down at Sea-Tac Airport left her embarrassed in front of crowds of people.
Michelle Dunaj says screeners checked under bandages from recent surgeries and refused to give her a private search when she requested one.
Dunaj, who is dying of leukemia, carried a large amount of prescription drugs through Sea-Tac to head to Hawaii for what would be one of the last trips of her life.
She called Alaska Airlines ahead of time to request 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,” she said.
But Dunaj says nothing went right at the security checkpoint.
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.
She says agents also made her lift up her shirt and pull back the bandages holding feeding tubes in place. Dunaj needs those tubes because of organ failure.
With other passengers staring, Dunaj says she asked for privacy and was turned down.
“They just said that it was fine; the location we were at was fine,” she said.
TSA spokesperson Ann Davis said “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.”
However, Dunaj says her request for a private screening was denied, and she does not want others with special needs to run into the same problem.
“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,” she said.
Davis said it is against policy for passengers to be denied privacy if they ask for it. The agency is responding to a request by KOMO News to look into the incident.