Wearable Angels: 6 stories of lifesaving wearable tech

They've got your back, and your heart
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Wearables don't only have the potential to improve us, making up for our inefficiencies as pudgy sacks of meat. Because they're always with us, monitoring us and keeping track of where we are, they have the potential to save us too.

That very thing happened when James Green, a reporter from Brooklyn, New York, noticed that his heart rate had spiked on the HeartWatch app on his Apple Watch and it turned out to be pulmonary embolism. That's a blocked vessel in the lungs, which could've proved fatal had it not been detected.

Read next: 10 wearables that could save your life

With wearable devices growing more popular, we're starting to hear more and more about devices that are legitimately saving people's lives. These aren't company promises about how some amazing new feature can save lives, these are actual stories of how wearables have already saved lives.

Fitbit finds what doctors didn't

Wearable Angels: 6 stories of lifesaving wearable tech

Patricia Lauder had recently retired and decided to get fit, so she went out and bought a Fitbit to track her steps. She soon started to feel unwell for the next couple of weeks, and thought she may have caught a bad cold or pneumonia. So she went to the doctor to get some tests done, but they found nothing.

Shortly after that, she started experiencing shortness of breath and fatigue. Lauder then checked in with her Fitbit, which let her know that her normal resting heart rate of 68 - 70bpm was rising five points a day, until one day it rose to 140bpm. She called 911 and was rushed to the hospital, where they found she had two large blood clots in her lungs.

Lauder's doctor was able to get rid of the clots by the next day, and her health returned to normal. "If I didn't have a Fitbit on my wrist, I would have never known that my heart rate was getting dangerously high," she told UConn Today. "And I might not be here to tell my story."

Apple Watch helps avoid heart attack

Wearable Angels: 6 stories of lifesaving wearable tech

Dennis Anselmo told The Sun that he was feeling terrible at work one day, like he had the flu. He sat down for a couple minutes and decided to play around with hew new Apple Watch, since he had become obsessed with checking out his heart rate. Normally, his heart rate sat about 60, but today it was 210bpm.

He turned to a co-worker and requested an ambulance; he was having a heart attack. When he got to the hospital, his doctors cleared the blockages in his arteries. They told him that if he had gone home and slept, as he originally planned, it was likely he would have suffered a second, more deadly attack.

Anselmo, a hardcore watch fan who has 35 other watches, says he hasn't touched them since the heart attack.

Project Lifesaver saves an autistic teen

Wearable Angels: 6 stories of lifesaving wearable tech

In January 2017, caretakers discovered that a 19-year-old autistic teen had gone missing from home. They quickly contacted the Santa Barbara County Public Safety Dispatch to report the missing person.

Because the teen was wearing a Project Lifesaver wearable tracker, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's office was able to pinpoint his location and send out a search and rescue team to find him. They were able to find him swimming in a retention pond.

Project Lifesaver has made and developed wearable trackers for people with dementia, Alzheimer's, autism and more since 1998. This is only the latest story of someone saved with one of its devices.

Fitbit's data cracks a medical case

Wearable Angels: 6 stories of lifesaving wearable tech

A 42-year-old man with a history of seizures had just suffered a brief one before he was admitted to the hospital. His heart rate was swinging between 130 and 190 bpm. After a quick test, doctors determined he had atrial fibrillation, which can lead to an increased risk of stroke.

However, the patient and his wife said he didn't have a history of either heart disease or atrial fibrillation, which left doctors in a bind. Typically at this particular hospital, if a patient has experienced atrial fibrillation for less than 48 hours, they administer an electric shock that restores the heart to normal rhythm. If atrial fibrillation lasts more than 48 hours, they prescribe blood thinners. Because the patient didn't know when it started, doctors weren't quite sure which treatment method to pursue.

Until one of them noticed he was wearing a Fitbit. They asked if it read heart rate (it did), and asked if they could look at the data on the companion app. They took a look at the data and saw that the fibrillation began three hours ago, so they gave him and electric shock and sent him on his way.

The wearable defibrillator saves a life

Wearable Angels: 6 stories of lifesaving wearable tech

In July 2016 17-year-old Gisselle Castro was talking to her sister when, all of a sudden, "everything went black." That's when the LifeVest, a wearable defibrillator that can detect irregular heart beats, sprung into action. It delivered an electric shock to her heart that restored her normal heart rhythm.

Her family scrambled to get help, but just a couple minutes later her heart slipped into ventricular fibrillation, a serious cardiac disturbance that can lead to cardiac arrest. The LifeVest then delivered three electric shocks to bring her back once again.

Castro, who had just received the LifeVest three days prior, told 12News in Arizona that she had "three heart attacks and died and came back."

Apple Watch saves a teen football player

Wearable Angels: 6 stories of lifesaving wearable tech

Paul Houle Jr., a 17-year-old from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, had saved up money from his summer job to buy an Apple Watch. Just a couple days after he received it, he wore it to football practice.

After his second practice of the day, he started to feel back and chest pain. He figured it was just soreness after a rough day, but then he noticed his Apple Watch told him his heart rate was 145, double what it should be. He quickly told an athletic trainer, who took him to the school's health center, which got him to a hospital.

Houle Jr. found out he had rhabdomyolysis, a condition where muscle tissue quickly breaks down and releases damaging proteins into the blood. It can damage multiple organs, and Houle Jr.'s liver, heart and kidneys were affected, though he did recover in a couple days and was able to return to school.

His doctor told ABC News that had he not reported his condition to the athletic trainer, his muscle deterioration would have led to kidney problems that cause electrolight disturbance, which would have led to heart failure the next day.

How we test

Husain Sumra


Husain joined Wareable in 2017 as a member of our San Fransisco based team. Husain is a movies expert, and runs his own blog, and contributes to MacRumors.

He has spent hours in the world of virtual reality, getting eyes on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR. 

At Wareable, Husain's role is to investigate, report and write features and news about the wearable industry – from smartwatches and fitness trackers to health devices, virtual reality, augmented reality and more.

He writes buyers guides, how-to content, hardware reviews and more.

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