Sunday, 21 August 2011

Travelling with a pacemaker

I recently got a pacemaker installed in China. I won't go into the Chinese hospital experience which people tend to view as being something to avoid at all costs, but I will detail what happens when you go through customs when you travel and have one in case it helps others. I travelled to England for a vacation, and passing through customs into the departure lounges had to avoid the x-ray machines. As I understand it, the x-ray machines are not harmful but are pointless as they will always go off. The hand detectors cannot be used as they affect the pacemaker, so you need to get a manual pat-down.

Leaving China, at the Pudong airport in Shanghai. Reaching the x-ray machine you step through, I informed the employee standing there that I had a pacemaker and showed him the pacemaker card (which is in Chinese in my case) that you get when you have one installled. He then told the people on the other side, who switched the x-ray machine off and motioned me through. Then a Chinese lady gave me a light pat-down which was very non-intrusive and they let me go on to my flight.

Leaving England, at the Heathrow in London. Reaching the x-ray machine, I told the employee I had a pacemaker. He motioned me to the side of the x-ray machine and then undid the rope and had me step through to the other side. Then he proceeded to give me a thorough pat-down which mostly seemed professional. He also seemed to believe he had to really have a go at my pacemaker to verify it was there in my right shoulder, and this left me in pain. It seemed more like a case of naively attempting to do something vigorously he hadn't actually been trained to do, than the correct procedure.

All in all, it seems like a well organized situation to find yourself in. However, next time I travel I will instruct the employee that I can open my shirt and let him better see the pacemaker bulge and that if he wants to touch it he can tell me what he would like to do first. I'd advise anyone else in the same situation to do the same thing.


  1. Thanks for your post. Ai am about to travel to China. I also have a pacemaker.

  2. Enjoy your trip. If you go through England, beware of the pacemaker grabbing sadists.