pulse oximeter Beep beep, beep beep, beep beep. The jerky tune of a pulse oximeter was a constant in the Ahmed household.
Shafi Ahmed had been living with an impending end-of-life deadline for years after being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that damages and scars the lungs.
“The pulse oximeter was more part of the family than even some family members because it always had to be there,” said his son Asrar Ahmed. “The batteries always had to be fully charged, and before he got up, before he ate, before he sat down, we had to put this thing on and it got to the point where checking oxygen has become second nature to us.”
Asrar’s father was an avid reader who enjoyed talking about international politics and telling stories of his childhood in India. He had a strong Muslim faith and a fierce love for his children and grandchildren.
Shafi’s youngest daughter was to be married and the family deliberated whether it was safe enough for him to attend. He was immunocompromised and taking steroids, which made him more susceptible to Covid-19.
“If I missed my daughter’s wedding, what’s the point of living?” He asked.
The whole family attended the Christmas wedding. Everyone was vaccinated and boosted; Shafi wore a mask and lived for this day. Soon, however, he began to feel ill.
Almost the whole family has tested positive for Covid-19. Shafi was not well and his pulse oximeter “wasn’t quiet,” Asrar said.
“It was like this beep driving me crazy because he was telling me he was sick, he was sick, he was sick.”
Shafi never returned home. The pulse oximeter rests on his bedside table. The family does not want to touch it; Asrar swears it still smells of his father.
He cares about her, even if she haunts him.
“I have never hated and cherished an object as much as I do, his pulse oximeter,” he wrote.
Morton Grove, Ill.
September 3, 1951 – January 4, 2022