Traveling With Your Pump

One carry-on for my pump, the other for the rest of my personal items.

I am a fairly frequent traveler and I like to travel lightly. My goal is to put all my belongings in one carry-on suitcase, whether I’m traveling for a few days or three weeks. All that changed when I bought a pneumatic pump for lymphedema in my right arm. I like my pump so much that I wanted to take it on my travels but I wondered about the hassles of weight restrictions and what the regulations were regarding medical devices. I also was concerned how I was going to handle two pieces of luggage. It was one more thing to add to my “living with lymphedema” list. After living with lymphedema for seven years, I’m learning to go with the flow,

Happily my pump fit very nicely in a regulation sized carry-on. I bought an inexpensive suitcase at Target that had those “spinner” wheels. The spinner wheels made lugging luggage down the aisle and through the airport so much easier, especially now that I had two suitcases. I wish my other carry-on had them. Though regulations require that a medical device bag only carry the medical device, I also included my compression garments and overnight sleeve. I figured they qualified as medical devices, I just hoped the airlines thought so too. In the bag also went the pneumatic pump owner’s manual, in case anyone had questions about its use.

I did on-line research on airline travel with medical devices. From all that I read, it appeared that pneumatic devices were medical devices and could be carried on in addition to a regular carry-on bag. Somehow when I read that breast pumps were medical devices, I felt more confident that an airline wouldn’t object to a pneumatic pump for lymphedema. Documentation, such as a doctor’s order, wasn’t required. There was also no need to let the airline know ahead of time that I was bringing a medical device. No extra charges were stated. It all seemed surprisingly uncomplicated. The true test would be the actual travel.

This past September we traveled to the British Isles. I carried my two pieces of luggage up to the Icelandair counter. Surprisingly, my one-year old carry-one luggage, which usually was acceptable, was rejected. The wheels did not fit in the “test unit”. My pump suitcase did not fit either but when I stated that the luggage contained my medical device, the worker behind the counter gave me a long look and briefly talked to another worker. I was then given a medical device tag to attach to my bag. No further questions were asked. Really, after that, it was smooth sailing with my pump. There was one flight where I had to hand over my pump bag when I boarded the plane because there just wasn’t enough room in the overhead because the plane was small. Another time, when my husband carried my pump bag, customs had him open it up for inspection. I traveled on five planes that trip and I can say that traveling with a medical device was non-eventful.

That said, we are going to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands in a couple of months. Because we will be staying on a small boat, I’m concerned about salt water and the potential harm it could do to my compression pump. Also, I’m wondering what the air travel restrictions may be in Ecuador to the islands. I’ll keep you posted about what I do. Until then…happy travels!

Karen Gillespie

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