Amy Weitzman
“The people I’ve loaned them out to are grateful.”

-- Amy Weitzman

One late night in early March Amy Weitzman began an internet search, eager to learn more about the novel coronavirus, which seemed to suddenly be all over the news. Long interested in ways to help Arlington, she wondered whether there was something she could do to help.

Weitzman began reading everything she could find. In her methodical, way she made a spreadsheet to show how patients were being treated and how some countries were successful in keeping the virus at bay. She also learned that hospitals were becoming overwhelmed with the high number of patients needing care.

She came across a facility in Washington state that was sending some patients home with an oximeter,  a device that measures blood oxygen levels and pulse rate. These patients could safely stay home by monitoring these functions while remaining in contact with health-care providers.

Weitzman came up with the idea of a lending library for oximeters so that people with symptoms of the virus could keep track of their oxygen level. “It’s the same technology they would use if you went into the hospital and had trouble breathing,” she said. “It’s simple and inexpensive, but they work.”

Checking oxygen levels

Using oximeters while making sure to communicate with a health-care provider helps reduce anxiety, she said. “People can see that their oxygen level is fine, and as long as they are communicating with their doctor, they can safely stay home. It helps people distinguish between tightness in the chest because of anxiety and tightness because their lungs aren’t functioning.” If oxygen levels are normal, patients can report that to their doctor.

Weitzman went online to buy oximeters, wondering whether they would be difficult to find; she knew that people had already been buying up thermometers to see if they were running a fever, a symptom of the virus. She located 15, but some orders were canceled as the demand for oximeters grew. She eventually located a total of 27 at a cost of about $25 each. She paid for a large portion out of her own pocket but also asked a network of friends for donations and put out a request on local email lists.

Now she has a website for people interested in borrowing an oximeter.

Anyone interested should go to the website and fill out a brief form. Weitzman requires that borrowers have been in contact with their health-care provider. She will drop off the oximeter at a home and pick it up when the user is finished and disinfect it. “The people I’ve loaned them out to are grateful and I’ve gotten good responses. A lot of people were anxious, because they couldn’t find one and are grateful to know if they need it there are some available.”

Demand has tapered off in the last few weeks as the number of cases have been decreasing, but the oximeters are available when needed. Weitzman is reaching out to other communities that might make use of them. “We have a lot of resources in Arlington,” she said. “I’m wondering if we could create a sister program and loan out part of the library.”

Part of the reason numbers are low in Arlington, Weitzman said, is that “we generally have good access to health care. There are a lot of things that come with health care so the idea is to extend the oximeter library to a part of Boston that has fewer resources.”

She is not aware of anyone else providing a lending library. “This kind of fits into my wheelhouse as to the type of projects I like to do, projects that are community oriented.” Weitzman is a founder of the Little Fox Shop, which raises money for the Fox Library and is current president of the board of directors.

Weitzman's 'lending-library' website

This news feature by YourArlington co-publisher Marjorie Howard was published Sunday, July 5, 2020.