Jun 112016

mapI don’t know how often pulse oximetry and seismology come together but it happened to me a couple of nights ago. I use a ventilator at night because inclusion body myositis has dramatically lowered my ability to breathe. During the day I get by okay, but when I lay down at night, I don’t do a good job of getting air in and out. Recently I noticed that I was more fatigued in the late afternoon and even dozing off to sleep when I didn’t want to. This made me wonder whether my settings were still good on my ventilator or if they needed to be increased. I knew from past experience that this would be a multi step process. First I needed an appointment with my pulmonologist to get an order for overnight pulse oximetry. Then go to the sleep clinic, another two hour bus ride (four hours round trip) to pick up all of the equipment and bring it home. After spending the night with the oximeter recording my pulse oxygen level I would have to pack it up and make the same bus trip once again to the sleep clinic. Altogether this would cost me $27 in bus fares, plus 3 lost days.It would also cost Medicare a lot of money to pay for the doctor visit and the equipment rental. Surely there must be a better way.

Once again I turned to Amazon. I purchased an oximeter, the iOX, that would plug into my iPhone microphone jack. During the night as I charged my iPhone, I would also be recording the oximetry data. Cost? About $45. The next morning I emailed the data to myself, opened the data file in Excel and reviewed it.

I enjoyed being able to have access to the data for myself rather than just waiting for a phone call from the clinic to tell me if my machine was working okay. I learned that my heart rate slowly dropped as I fell into a deeper sleep, starting with my normal resting rate of 60 beats per minute and then eventually reaching the low 50’s to high 40’s. My respiration rate showed a similar pattern, starting at around 15 and then stabilizing at about 12. My pulse oxygen remained consistently around 97 to 99% and only briefly dropped into the mid 90s for a total of about 30 seconds.These are all good numbers and give me confidence that I can continue to rely on my ventilator.

Chart copyNow here is the seismology part. There was a 5.2 earthquake at 1:04:39 that morning with its epicenter near Borrego Springs, about 50 miles from here. The shaking in my location began about 20 seconds later (seismic waves travel through the Earth’s surface at about 2.5 mi./s). You can see my response on the oximetry data. It woke me slightly after 1:05 AM, although I did not stay awake. In fact by morning I had forgotten about it until I saw it mentioned on the news and then remembered being awakened. My heart rate briefly rose to my normal waking rate of 60 and my respiration rose from 12 to 18, but within less than a minute both returned to sleeping levels.

I have included a link to the oximeter I’ve used in case anyone is curious. A word of caution: I do not have any heart or lung conditions that I know of and so I feel confident with relying on the data I obtained. Others might want to consult their medical professional.


  5 Responses to “Overnight Oximetry During an Earthquake”

  1. You are amazing!

  2. I admire your ingenuity Mike! Great job coming up with an excellent and economic solution!

  3. Maybe you should send your results to the USGS so they can view the impact of an earthquake on someone sleeping, Mike! You are incredible to share the interesting facts you learn about life with IBM!

  4. You never cease to amaze me! What do Oximetry and Seismology have in common? Mike Shirk. Your intelligent and scientific approach to problem solving have certainly kept you going, and helped your IBM community considerably. God Bless!

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