Local 12: Apple Watch saves local woman's life from deadly blood clot

UC cardiologist sees wearables as part of the health technology of the future

A Cincinnati woman is thanking her smartwatch for alerting her to a dangerous medical condition.

Kimmie Watkins, 29, wasn't feeling well one day, so she decided to sleep it off. Her Apple Watch woke her up because her heart rate had spiked to 178 beats per minute.

The notification wasn't a new text message or an incoming phone call, it was an alert that something was wrong with Watkins. Earlier in the day, Watkins felt lightheaded, winded and dizzy. Watkins said she assumed it was due to not eating much, and because she didn't have a history of heart problems.

"I was asleep for about an hour and a half before my watch woke me up with this alarm that said that my heart rate had been too high for too long," she told Local 12. "So for over 10 minutes, it was too high."

Doctors told Watkins she had a saddle pulmonary embolism.

Richard Becker, MD

Richard Becker, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiovascular Health and Disease at the UC College of Medicine/Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Marketing + Brand

Local 12 interviewed Richard Becker, MD, professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Health who said people who have one of those types of embolisms have a 50% chance of survival.

Having a heart rate of 178 beats per minute is comparable to that of an athlete at peak performance.

"A saddle pulmonary embolism is the most severe and life-threatening of all, because it's a blood clot that saddles both the blood vessel to the right lung and to the left lung," Becker said.

Becker said consumer heart rate monitors parallel those used in the hospital. They use a photo sensor to detect the person's electrical current.

"Part of me sees wearables as part of that movement of health," Becker said.

Becker is also part of a national study researching smartwatches as a way to detect atrial fibrillation. That's also known as AFIB, which is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can cause poor blood flow.

Becker said people often don't know they have it, so it goes untreated.

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