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From patients to advocates: Apple Watch owners evangelize its life-saving features

Jan 23, 2019 · 2:23 PM
Jody Brannon
00:00/00:00
This audio was generated using Microsoft’s artificial intelligence.
hocus-focus/Getty
CEO Tim Cook, introducing the Apple Watch Series 4 in 2018, says he's proud of the device's health features. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Owners and physicians praise the Apple Watch's health features, which can lead to diagnosis of serious conditions
In mid-January, Apple’s Tim Cook proudly retweeted a post from a wife who insists the Apple Watch, now featuring enhancements that recognize heart irregularities, saved her husband’s life.
It’s not surprising that a CEO would reply to a tweet from a happy customer (interestingly that was only the fourth tweet by Elissa Lombardo), but Cook could hear a similar tale shared by an Apple instructor at a Puget Sound Apple store.
Larry, a longtime and popular teacher at the Westfield Mall Apple Store, recounts how his watch also may have saved his life. For his job (which prevents him from responding to follow-up questions from a reporter), he wears a watch and regularly talks about it during hourlong sessions on Apple Watch basics and the activity app. He’s especially enthusiastic about the Series 4 version. It was released in September 2018 and upgraded in December with a software release to enable the long-awaited electrocardiogram feature, which Apple abbreviates as ECG (more widely known as EKG because of German spelling).
When Larry wore a Series 3, he also bespoke its abilities to monitor heart rates – high, low and irregular – sharing such details in his regular in-store sessions. He’d get home from work less weary from patiently answering customers questions than from worrisome and persistent problems with sleeping. Most nights, he was startled awake, almost on the hour. Larry decided to put the watch to a personal test.
He charged the watch in the evening and then wore it to bed, allowing the watch to measure his heartbeat throughout the night. Armed with evidence, Larry showed the spikes in his heartbeat to his doctor.
Diagnosis: a likely stroke.
Stories of the Apple Watch’s heroics increasingly are being shared on social media and nationwide with doctors, who often diagnose a common form of arrhythmia (known as AFib) frequently associated with serious problems like stroke.
By 2030, the number of Americans suffering from AFib could double to 12 million, according to research shared by the National Institutes of Health; a Centers for Disease Control fact sheet says almost 10 percent of people 65 or older are afflicted, and AFib is tied to about 130,000 deaths a year.
Larry, now healthy and taking heart regulating medications, has a compelling story to share with customers about the powers of the Apple Watch, especially the Series 4. And watch owners and shoppers are increasingly asking about the devices for others. At recent Southcenter classes, new watch owners attended courses to learn more about it for a parent or for residents at an eldercare facility.
People seem eager to wear a device that can help monitor their health, not just record their steps or nudge them to stand. While many devices can record pulse – including some Fitbit models since 2016 – many Apple loyalists have come to trust Cupertino products above others and despite their heftier price tags (Series 3 starts at $280, Series 4 at $400 – $500 with cellular capabilities). In fact, nearly 420,000 Apple watch wearers participated in a Stanford-American Heart Journal study, creating a pool of data that researchers expect to release sometime in 2019.
Heartwise features of Apple Watch Series 4 have helped to save the lives of owners-turned-patients. Photos courtesy of Apple.
As far as the import of the watch on Apple's bottom line and influence, Bay area tech observer Horace Dediu says Apple watch sales have exceeded that of its entire iPod line as well as watches sold by "the entire Swiss watch industry." Dediu, tagged as "the king of Apple analysts" by Forbes, predicts Apple's distribution of heart sensor technology will exceed all heart monitors and EKG devices previously sold. He also believes "the watch will diagnose more cases of AFib than have ever been diagnosed."
Meanwhile, more people like Lombardo are sharing happy health stories:
Ed Dentel, a 46-year-old who bikes and participates in martial arts, shared a tale similar to Lombardo’s husband in a Reddit post and “Good Morning America” tracked down the Richmond, Virginia, resident. (See also an AppleInsider article.)
New Yorker William Monzidelis, then 32, received an alert that sparked him to get immediate care for a burst ulcer, as told in a story broadcast on ABC4/NBC New York.
Deanna Recktenwal, an 18-year-old Tampa cheerleader, learned of a kidney ailment through her watch, shared on a Today Show segment.
Prep football nose tackle Paul Houle of Marion, Massachusetts, felt bad after August two-a-days and his watch clocked a surprisingly elevated resting heart rate of 145. This led to a diagnosis of rhabdomyolysis, a serious muscular condition that sometimes presents after strenuous exercise and can cause kidney failure. Like Lombardo's happy tweet to Tim Cook, Houle’s joyful story, which circulated in autumn 2015, reached the Apple CEO, who promptly offered the Tabor Academy senior an internship.

Jody Brannon is an independent creator and not a representative of Bing or Microsoft.

Written byJody BrannonJody Brannon
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