The Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona gave the Bergstrom family an experience that has left a 9-year-old boy with recurring nightmares.
Ali Bergstrom and her son, Chille, have flown countless times around the world despite her son having a pacemaker to stay alive. He has Golden Hars syndrome, which has caused him to undergo 15 different open-heart surgeries due to his four different heart defects. When he travels, he requests alternative screening by the TSA because the standard scans use a metal detector that would affect his life-sustaining equipment. Usually, this isn’t a problem and the agents are happy enough to take out the alternative machine and wipe Chille’s hands to check for explosive residue.
But this time was different. These agents hadn’t been trained correctly, or somehow overlooked their own guidelines by insisting that Chille needed an exemption instead. The lengthy process required that all of their luggage (which had already passed through the TSA’s own checkpoint) be brought back, opened, and wiped for explosives. The head of Homeland Security at the airport, four police officers, and dozens of TSA staff stood around, leaving one man to screen the other passengers, while they treated her little family like criminals.
According to Ali, when her son questioned the agents as to why this was happening to him, they responded with something that sounded like an outright lie:
That he wasn’t eligible for a screening because the TSA had recently stopped another child with a pacemaker that would have attempted to blow up a plane. Of course, the agent quickly followed the claim up with a quick “I’m not at liberty to divulge the information,” and Ali believes that this entire event blew out of control because the man in charge didn’t bother to double-check the TSA’s own regulations that would have cleared them for flight in just a few minutes.
The TSA claims that they have been trying to contact the Bergstoms, but so far, no communication has been reported by the family. Chille just wants to prevent this from happening to other kids with pacemakers.
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