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Nov. 30, 2022

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Leukemia patient says TSA mishandled pat-down

Agency says all procedures were followed correctly

The Columbian
2 Photos
Michelle Dunaj of Roseville, Mich., is reflected in a mirror Tuesday at the home of friends in Bonney Lake.
Michelle Dunaj of Roseville, Mich., is reflected in a mirror Tuesday at the home of friends in Bonney Lake. Dunaj, who is dying of leukemia, says she was treated inappropriately at a TSA security checkpoint at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Photo Gallery

SEATTLE — A Michigan woman dying of leukemia says she hopes her embarrassment during a Seattle airport security pat-down might change the way the Transportation Security Administration treats travelers with medical conditions.

A TSA spokeswoman said late Tuesday, however, that the agency had reviewed video from the security checkpoint where Michelle Dunaj was screened for weapons and determined that the agency’s procedures were followed.

Dunaj, 34, was making what she expects will be the last trip of her life on Oct. 2 as she traveled through Seattle en route to Hawaii.

The Roseville, Mich., woman thought she had prepared by calling the airline ahead of time, asking for a wheelchair, carrying documentation for her feeding tubes and making sure she had prescriptions for all her medications, including five bags of saline solution. But Dunaj said she received a full pat-down in the security line at Seattle-Tacoma Airport and had to lift her shirt and pull back bandages so agents could get a good look.

“My issue is: It was in front of everyone, and everyone was looking at me like I was a criminal or like I was doing something wrong,” Dunaj told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “It shouldn’t have been in front of everyone.”

Dunaj said a female agent performed the pat-down and asked her to lift up her shirt after feeling the tubes going into Dunaj’s chest and abdomen. Dunaj said her suggestion for a more private pat-down was dismissed.

She says a machine couldn’t get a reading on her saline bags so a TSA agent forced one open.

“I didn’t want to start getting upset and swearing and causing more of a scene or issue,” Dunaj said. “But it definitely wasn’t handled properly.”

The TSA said it reviewed video and “determined that our screening procedures were followed.” It said in a statement, “At no point did a TSA officer open the passenger’s medically necessary liquids and the passenger was never asked to remove or pull off any bandages.”

The agency also said “at any point, any passenger can request private screening with a witness present.”

“We have determined that our screening procedures were followed,” she said late Tuesday.The TSA statement said, “The passenger has not contacted TSA about her screening experience.”

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