Exploring Health with Wali

Authors: Dr C. A. Michie and the students of the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine

Wali was munching on a papaya skin the other day and chilling with the medical students on the beach. One of them said something strange, as we looked out to sea. He said, and I am not kidding, “You know, Wali, you are a lizard, but you are just like us students – we all have sea-water in our blood.”

I thought he must be tired and overworked, so I checked in with my favourite student who always tells it straight – she will be a great doctor – and she said it was true!

That from fishes and hermit crabs to lizards and humans, we all have salt water in our blood. Our cells all swim around in it, and they are salty inside too! Amazing. She said, “Taste your blood, Wali, it is salty.” Well, that is a bit much. I am not making a hole in my pretty Wali hide just to prove her right.

The students explained that blood is like a really fancy fruit cocktail. It has some salt, some sugar, some fat and some proteins.

All of these goodies are pumped around by the heart to keep your body happy. It seems body cells need some salt to make things like tears, saliva, sweat, stomach acid, bile – all those liquids we have found out about.

Even your red cells like the magic salt water strength to keep cool flying saucer shape. One student said that like the sea, humans are mostly water (seven-tenths), and that iguanas are probably the same. Just think: Mr. Trump, or even your school teacher, is 70% water!

And all our cells are really fussy: The salt solution must be just right, not too strong, not too weak. The glucose and fats go up whenever you eat, then down when you exercise, but the saltiness stays the same.

The students have a long word for this, but I have forgotten it. I was just dreaming about if I had Wali waves in my veins.

The other weird thing the students told me was that the proper name for this salt was sodium chloride. Just like table salt! Or the salt we iguanas sneeze out our noses when we get hot.

Incredible! There was I, Wali, thinking I was special, and now I find out that I am full of lots of water and salt just like everyone else – and just like that great, big, blue Caribbean Sea! .

So I am off to show off, nod my head and look good. I may be full of salt and water, but Wali can look just like a dinosaur when he wants.