A Michigan woman was saved from a “widow maker” heart attack thanks to her smartwatch. Diane Feenstra wasn’t too concerned when she felt a bit of tightness in her chest, but she still decided to glance at her smartwatch — a birthday present from her husband — to check her pulse.
According to the watch, her heart was fast — 169 beats per minute — despite the fact that she had not been exercising or active at all.
“I thought maybe there’s something going on health-wise that I should check out, but I still didn’t think I’d had a heart attack or that probably I was heading toward another one that day,” said Feenstra.
The 69 year old resident of Norton Shores, Michigan decided to text her husband for advice. His response: call the doctor immediately.
Feenstra went one step further, instead heading to the nearest urgent care. There, a physician looked at her EKG, handed her four baby aspirins, and told her to chew them immediately.
She was then sent to a cardiology center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where her tests came back indicating a recent heart attack and a blockage in her left anterior descending artery, which is the largest coronary artery that supplies blood to the front of the heart.
An obstruction in the left anterior descending artery (LAD) can cause a “widow maker” heart attack, which is much more dangerous than the average heart attack because the LAD artery carries fresh blood into the heart to allow it to get the necessary oxygen to pump properly. If this artery is blocked, the heart can stop very fast.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “you can’t tell that someone is having a widowmaker heart attack from the outside. It causes the same symptoms as a heart attack caused by a blockage in a different artery, including chest pain, chest heaviness, shortness of breath, lightheadedness and cold sweats. In women, the symptoms can be more subtle, like neck or jaw pain, nausea and lightheadedness.”
Another EKG conducted on Feenstra looked “messy ugly,” she was told, and the cardiologist prepared her for the possibility of heart failure.
Luckily, a cardiac MRI revealed that her heart was viable. Doctors then inserted a stent to open the blockage.
Feenstra has credited her Apple smartwatch for potentially saving her life that day.
“Were it not for the fact that I had that 169 beats per minute for a period of time, I wouldn’t probably be here today,” she said. “Seeing it on my watch told me you have something going that you need to investigate now.”
Looking back, Feenstra realized that she had had heart attack symptoms, which she dismissed or explained away with other causes. She assumed that a heart attack would produce “elephant sitting on your chest” type pressure, when the signs can be more subtle.
Beginning two months earlier, Feenstra had felt intense pain which started in her neck and ran down to the wrist of her left arm. Since the pain would come and go, she attributed it to arthritis.
Lucky for her, the smartwatch gave her the information necessary to know that she needed to seek medical attention.