A 9-year-old boy with a pacemaker was held by TSA agents for more than an hour before being told that he and his family would be unable to make their flight.
Chille Bergstrom was born with Goldenhar Syndrome, a disease that sometimes leads to the underdevelopment of organs like the kidneys, lungs or heart, according to Children's National Health System.
The young boy has undergone over 15 open heart surgeries throughout the course of his life, the Daily Mail reports, but still relies on a pacemaker in order to survive. He can thus never go through the metal detectors when going through the security process at airports. His mother even has documentation showing that her son requires alternative screening.
But none of this was enough to prove to TSA agents at Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport that Chille posed no threat. After being denied the alternative screening, the 9-year-old was surrounded by armed police and taken into custody.
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"[Chille] sat on my lap, crying for an hour, as we were surrounded by 18 TSA and police and were actually told by the TSA that 'some terrorist plots use children with pacemakers,'" wrote his mother in a Facebook post, says the Mail.
In an interview with KMSP, Ali recounted how she laughed when the TSA told her that they have prevented children with pacemakers from executing terrorist attacks in the past. "I laughed and said, ‘Oh when?’ At that point, the TSA agent became very quiet and said, ‘Oh we’re not at liberty to discuss this.’”
The experience was traumatic for Chille, who actually wants to be a pilot when he grows up.
“It was very scary,” he said. “I thought it was my fault.”
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His mother adds that he had woke up from "nightmares on Saturday night and on Sunday night."
In a statement to the Daily Mail, a TSA spokesman said that "TSA is conducting a thorough review of the incident. TSA officials are in contact with the family for feedback and support."
Chille hopes that by sharing his story he can prevent this from happening to other children with disabilities, or "heart kids," as he calls them.
He also hopes that appropriate action will be taken against the agents responsible. "They should be fired for treating heart kids like this," he said. "They were so mean and lied!"