Sunday, April 17, 2011
Trachs and Vents 101--The Pulse Oximeter
The pulse oximeter (ox-im-eat-er), lovingly referred to as the pulse ox, is another important little machine in our lives these days. It measures the amount of oxygen Abby is getting, and the higher, the better! We want 100%, or as close to it as we can get. It alarms at 94%, but she usually isn't any lower than 98%. It also measures her heart rate, which alarms if it drops below 80 or goes higher than 200. Neither of these happen very often at all, so we're mostly concerned with her oxygen levels.
The probe is attached to a band-aid kind of a thing that wraps around the foot or hand. We just do the foot because she moves her hands too much to get a good read.
In those scary early days in the NICU, the pulse ox didn't even alarm until 82% because Abby's baseline was in the mid to upper 80s (yeah, I know---not so hot!) When the percentage drops down below the alarm parameter, it's called a desat. This is short for desaturation, which means that Abby is not getting enough oxygen to her brain. It wasn't uncommon for Abby to desat to the 30s fairly often, which would require lots of stimulation, oxygen, and praying. In the beginning, she desated soooo frequently (like 10+ times an hour) that she had a nurse strictly assigned to her. I knew things were getting better when her nurse had another baby to take care of!
Thankfully, those days are LONG over (I shake my head in amazement at just how far God has brought us when I stop to think of those early NICU days) and now Abby's idea of a desat is to maybe 90%. That, I can handle!
So that's the pulse ox's job. Abby only has to wear it when she's sleeping. Otherwise, her kicking sets it off and keeps it from getting a good read anyway. Yep, this is another boy-who-cried-wolf alarm, just like the apnea monitor. This one isn't as ridiculously loud though, and it's easy to take off if we need to give her foot a break.