A pulse oximeter, or “pulse ox” for short, is the medical device that clips onto the end of your finger and measures your blood oxygen level and pulse rate.
After a medical scare with his COVID 19-positive father, Jon Stein of Kemp Mill wants to raise awareness of the device as a monitoring tool for COVID patients convalescing at home. He also wants community members with COVID to know they can borrow a pulse oximeter from the collection he’s building, free of charge.
Stein announced the launch his Kemp Mill Pulse Oximeter Gemach, or lending collection, on May 7.
Early in the pandemic, Stein’s wife Rachel, a speech therapist for Howard County Public Schools, ordered a pulse oximeter online after talking to a relative. Stein said he was dismissive of the idea at the time.
Then on March 15, Stein’s father, who is in his late 60s and lives in central Pennsylvania, was diagnosed with COVID-19. Told by doctors he didn’t need to be hospitalized, the elder Stein had convalesced at home for a week and a half when Jon gave his mother a passing suggestion to pick up a pulse oximeter on her drug store run.
A normal blood oxygen level reading is between 95 percent and 100 percent. Stein’s father’s reading was hovering in the low 70s.
Stein emphasized that his father wasn’t experiencing shortness of breath, yet his lungs were not getting enough oxygen into his blood. “I wonder if they hadn’t taken him to the hospital that night, would he have woken up the next morning or made it if he was taken to the hospital,” he said.
After rushing to the hospital, his father spent six weeks in the ICU, three of them on a ventilator. He is presently recovering in a long-term care unit.
After his family’s experience, Stein dove into reading about the criticality of blood oxygen levels in monitoring COVID patients. The experience pushed Stein to raise awareness and ensure members of his community had access to pulse oximeters if they couldn’t purchase their own due to cost or scarcity.
“Having this extra marker of data that you can use when you talk to your doctor will help them make important decisions,” Stein said. It should not be used in place of seeking medical advice or testing, he added.
If someone has a COVID diagnosis and cannot acquire a pulse ox device through other means, Stein said they can submit a request for consideration to [email protected]. People are also welcome to purchase pulse oximeters for donation as well.
Presently there are five or six of the devices out on loan from the gemach. He is consulting with “critical-care professionals” for guidance on disinfecting and circulating the devices.
He said he is also in communication with Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington, and will refer people to the organization for additional medical related services.
“Helping people in this way is really important to me,” he said.