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How my Apple Watch's heart rate monitoring saved my life

Chuck La Tournous | July 26, 2016
Chuck La Tournous has a scary story with a happy ending. Whew.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

I’ll begin this story the same way I began the phone call to my wife: “I’m OK, but…”

The “but” began on a Tuesday morning, after I started walking from the parking lot to the front door of my office building. I began feeling short of breath. No matter how deeply I inhaled, it felt like my lungs weren’t filling up completely. At first, the feeling just seemed odd—nothing serious, just…weird.

By the time I climbed the flight of stairs to my floor, the feeling had grown worse. Along with the shortness of breath, I could feel my heart racing in my chest. Stopping to talk to a colleague on the way to my office, the mere act of speaking left me practically gasping for air. I cut the conversation short and continued to my office. Sitting still made me feel better, but not great.

It was then I thought about the heart rate sensor on my Apple Watch. I opened the Heart Rate app, curious to see if my heart rate was actually elevated or if it was just my imagination. It read 118 beats per minute. Definitely not my imagination—my normal resting heart rate is in the low 70s.

As I sat at my desk that morning, I frequently checked my heart rate with my watch. No matter how long I was at rest, it never dipped below 100 beats per minute. Still, I kept trying to convince myself it was something that would just pass. I had too much to do, lots of work to finish, and I was scheduled to leave that afternoon on a 780-mile drive with my family to celebrate my daughter’s graduation from her Master’s program. It was a trip I’d been looking forward to for months—and I wasn’t about to let a little shortness of breath mess it up.

Stairway to Heaven

By lunchtime, I had made up my mind not to mention anything to my wife and to go ahead with our trip. I was thinking about packing lists and making a mental note not to forget my Apple Watch charger as I walked down the two flights of stairs to the cafeteria. The shortness of breath returned, but I was determined to ignore it. I started to carry my lunch back up the stairs and the gasping returned. The pounding of my heart became so strong I could feel it in my ears. I felt so winded I had to pause on the stairwell—I just didn’t have the strength to go on.

 

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