Back in 2007 a group of mountaineers went for the summit of Everest while being closely monitored by a team of doctors who kept track of a variety of bodily functions, including the amount of oxygen in the climbers’ blood stream. Samples were taken at The Balcony on Everest’s South Side at approximately 8400m, and were then quickly carried back to a medical station set up at 6400m.
When examined while still on the mountain, and a relatively short time after being taken, even the doctors were surprised at what they found. They expected to find lower oxygen levels of course, and that was proven to be true, but on average, the levels of oxygen were so low, that they were about half that of someone considered to be critically ill. In the case of one mountaineer, the levels were dubbed to be “near-fatal”, and ended up being the lowest oxygen levels ever recorded.
The fact that these climbers were able to live, and in numerous cases thrive, on such low levels of oxygen may change the way that doctors treat patients in the future. Someone who is acclimatized to the lower levels will not need to have their oxygen levels treated, allowing medical staff to instead focus on other issues, such as hypothermia or altitude sickness.
Interesting study. Not completely surprising results, but the extremely low levels are definitely eye-opening. It’s amazing how much our bodies can tolerate and adapt to situations.
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