Travelling with My Jolter: Airport Security and the VNS

I’m on vacation, but here’s a quick update to tide you—ok, me—over until I return home and manage to write something longer.

I was really nervous (what else is new?) about flying from Ontario to BC last week. Though it certainly didn’t help that I’ve been overwhelmed in general lately, what was stressing me out the most was my uncertainty about airport security with my VNS. I’ve read horror stories on the internet—according to random people in forums, for example, it’s possible for a VNS to be completely reset when it goes through a metal detector, and we all know that random people in internet forums are a super-reliable source of information. According to the patient manual produced by Cyberonics (the company that makes the VNS), on the other hand, “Antitheft devices and metal detectors should not affect the generator or be affected by it. As a precaution, however, move through them at a steady pace; do not linger in the area and stay at least 40 centimeters (16 inches) away from such equipment” (a link to the document is available here [scroll all the way down], and it’s fascinating reading—7/10 VNS patients, in my estimation, based on nothing, recommend). The “should” in this Cyberonics statement did not inspire enough confidence for me to feel great about risking something implanted in my chest malfunctioning, especially at the beginning of my trip, so I decided that I’d ask for a pat-down instead of opting for the less handsy screening method.

Despite a few, uh, hiccups the morning of our flight, including me leaving the door to our apartment unlocked, we made it to the airport and checked our bag. The next hurdle to clear was—you guessed it—airport security.

To make a long story short, mostly because I want to go back to enjoying my vacay, my VNS (and cane) allowed us to skip the very, very long line—silver lining!—and the pat-down was NBD. We were through security in less than ten minutes, my VNS hasn’t stopped jolting me on the reg, as is its habit, and we’ve been having a great visit with our West Coast family. Indeed, the week here has been flying by; it’s hard to believe that it’s already time to start getting anxious about the trip home.



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