This is my new toy.
It is a pulse oximeter. It shines a light through my fingertip, senses it, and works out my blood oxygen level and pulse. I read about “Happy hypoxia”, so called because one is oblivious to it- because you feel breathless when you cannot expel CO2, but Covid pneumonia allows you to expel CO2 just not to absorb oxygen properly. So you are slowly starved of oxygen, but don’t realise it. I feel “silent hypoxia” is a better word, despite the loss of alliteration. You breathe more and more rapidly, straining your heart and lungs, but are unaware.
I read about that, and instantly ordered the oximeter. I hope I don’t need it- I may not catch the virus at all. But, unless civilisation breaks down, I should be able to give this particular piece of evidence to a doctor, saying my blood oxygen was below normal (normal is 95-100%) and might get into hospital on time. I also bought a thermometer to assess the severity of any fever.
Does vitamin D deficiency cause cytokine storms? There was some research in Trinity College Dublin, I think saying vitamin D might have something to do with them. A cytokine storm is when your immune cells stop recognising which cells are healthy and which infested with the virus, and start ordering them all to self-destruct, viral and healthy alike. So you drown in pus.
All this stuff is really horrible. Still, as long as you don’t overestimate the probability or severity of risk, it is better to know. Many people catch the virus without being intubated, and may recover completely.
In February I had no idea what a cytokine storm was. Vitamin D deficiency was a suggestion: there is evidence of correlation, and an explanation why vitamin D might be relevant is hypothesised, but the link was not proven (as I understand it). White people should spend more time in the sun. Then I read this. If vitamin D is a platitude cast in the faces of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, as if this is a simple precaution and you’ll be alright, there is a problem.
I am a pretty straight kind of guy (gal, whatever) and depending on what experience you have of me you might decide to trust what I say here. And, it’s all second hand. I read something, I take it in partially, I remember it partially. I have no expertise, just the lay interest of an intelligent person with a lot of time whose friends may die. Like any other social media, it’s at best a less trustworthy source than Google will find.
I learned of hypoxia first in the New York Times, in an article by a doctor. It’s not peer-reviewed, and the evidence was anecdotal, but I felt it a reasonably prestigious source. You may trust others, and the trust is not wholly objective.
This blog has had views from 199 countries and territories. I would like views from Turkmenistan or Tajikistan, Mauritania, Chad or the DRC, to colour in more of the map, but I got fed up waiting for no.200, so I am celebrating with this header photo.
You may have noticed the pulse indicated in that photo was quite low. I googled, found the scary word Brachycardia, phoned my GP, and the next day (Friday 15th) had an ECG and blood tests. I have a normal sinus rhythm, so no need to worry unless I have sudden dizziness or breathlessness. Thank God for the NHS.
Arguably, I was foolish to buy the oximeter, or foolish to use it before the frightening possible moment when I had been feverish and coughing for a week, and was getting no better. I suppose I could have decided to take my pulse at any point, with or without it, but had not, and my feeling is that the low pulse is a sudden discovery rather than a sudden onset. In the event I may have given myself a fright without any reason. Just because 60 is normal pulse, does not mean that in me, in the absence of other symptoms, 47 is healthy enough. Yet, knowing of it, I am pleased at the ease of getting it checked.