TSA apologizes for pat-down that leaves Michigan man covered in urine

ROMULUS, Mich. (AP) — A bladder cancer survivor from Michigan who wears a bag that collects his urine said the head of the Transportation Security Administration called to apologize for an airport pat-down that caused the bag to spill its contents on his clothing.

Tom Sawyer, a 61-year-old retired special education teacher, said the experience left him in tears before he caught a flight to Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 7.

“I was absolutely humiliated. I couldn’t even speak,” the Houghton Lake man told MSNBC.com.

Sawyer later told the Detroit Free Press that TSA chief John Pistole called him Monday and “apologized on behalf of the TSA.” Sawyer said he accepted Pistole’s apology.

“Here I am, just an average citizen from a small town,” Sawyer said. “I told him, ‘I only want training for the agents on medical conditions.’”

The newspaper says it couldn’t immediately reach the agency for comment. However, Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole earlier had said he’s concerned about people such as Sawyer who have had uncomfortable experiences with agents.

During an appearance Monday on CBS’ “The Early Show,” Pistole expressed “great concern over anybody who feels like they have not been treated properly or had something embarrassing” happen.

Sawyer said that once he got through security, he changed his bag, but didn’t have time to change his clothing and had to board the plane soaked in urine.

“I was embarrassed to death,” he told the Free Press.

Sawyer was diagnosed with bladder cancer three years ago and had to have a procedure that left him with a urostomy bag to catch rerouted urine.

Claire Saxton, executive director of the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network, said she’s concerned Sawyer’s story is indicative of a larger trend.

“TSA agents need to be trained to listen when someone tells them they have a health issue, because the one thing that Tom in his account talked about was he tried to explain and they just weren’t even interested in listening,” Saxton told The Associated Press.

“No one living with an ‘ostomy’ should be afraid of flying because they’re afraid of being humiliated,” she said.

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