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Traveling on Peritoneal Dialysis | I’m Not a Terrorist

Ever since I was given a day off of dialysis every week, my wife and I have enjoyed taking overnight trips to visit family and see new things. Two years ago, my wife and I traveled to Portland, Oregon for a day and we fell in love with it so much, we moved there a year later. However, traveling while being on peritoneal dialysis can be tricky, and you sometimes feel like you are being accused of being a terrorist for bringing your life-saving medical supplies on the plane with you.

For overnight trips, at the bare minimum, I need to bring my emergency manual dialysate solution, gauze, bandages, and solution to clean my exit site for daily care. Because my manual supplies are five large bags of 2000 ml each of dialysate liquid, and you are only supposed to bring three 3 oz bottles of liquid on board, I always get pulled aside for extra screening. I also have a titanium catheter connector, so I sometimes will be pulled aside after going through the metal detector.

Screening of my dialysate solution is always different, but invariably, the person who looks in my bag always has a confused look on their face, and they have to call over a superior for advice on how to screen them. Sometimes they wipe down everything in my bag and run it through a machine to check for chemicals; sometimes they run the bags of solution through the bottle liquid scanner (BLS) machine; and sometimes they will do a combination of both. A lot of the time I am also pulled aside to do a full-body pat-down. They always ask me if I would like to go to a private room for the pat-down, but I don’t ever care. TSA rules state that they allow “larger amounts of medically necessary liquids… in reasonable quantities.” (https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/medications-liquid)

For longer trips, I need to bring my cycler along with me — this is a bit more of an ordeal. I need to order medical supplies to the place I will be staying, and I need to bring my cycler on the plane with me. My cycler, Fresenius Liberty, is too big to bring as carry-on luggage (I checked), but my dialysis clinic has a special hard-case luggage available for me to borrow if I sign up for it ahead of time.

When I go on a longer trip, I make sure to get a letter from my doctor/dialysis clinic that states the dates I am traveling as well as what equipment I am bringing with me. I have only ever had to show this letter one time when checking my luggage. I have never had to show it for just going through security, so for shorter trips, I don’t even bother to get one. I have been asked a couple times to open the case with the cycler in order for them to see that it is packed well, and that it is indeed a medical device (although, how they know the difference, I will never know).

Also when I go out of town, I need to let my dialysis clinic and both of the transplant centers I am listed with know where I am going and how long I will be gone. This doesn’t seem like a huge step, but I often forget if I am just going for an overnight trip (oops!).

So it is a bit of a hassle traveling on peritoneal dialysis, but it is possible. With a little bit of planning, and some extra time at the airport to allow for some extra screening, you can travel easily throughout the lower 48 states. I have not yet ventured outside of the continental United States, but I did check about travel to Hawaii, and Fresenius told me that they would deliver my supplies.

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