Firefighter survives heart attack thanks to the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch has done it again this time saving the life of a firefighter who suffered a heart attack after playing street hockey with his son. Despite being fit, Travis Chalmers of Elmsdale, Nova Scotia was complaining of a splitting headache and felt a “warm sensation” in his chest. With these symptoms, Chalmers wondered whether he was merely coming down with the flu or a cold and wasn’t concerned.

A 44-year old firefighter heads to the hospital when his Apple Watch tells him he has an abnormal heart rhythm

But his symptoms took a turn for the worse and Travis told Canada’s Global News, “About a half hour later, I’m laying down with my daughter and my heart rate is still beating out of my chest.” Checking his Apple Watch, the firefighter saw that he was experiencing atrial fibrillation which is an irregular heart rhythm that can indicate an upcoming stroke or heart failure.

The 44-year-old decided that he better take a trip to the hospital. “When I said atrial fibrillation and gave them the symptoms, I was rushed right in,” he said. “That’s when they told me I’m probably having a heart attack.” The doctors told him that his troponin levels were high indicating that his heart was damaged. Other tests were conclusive enough for Chalmers to be diagnosed with a heart attack.

If the Apple Watch tells you that something unusual is happening to your heart, head to the ER immediately

“I stayed in the hospital for a week and got more tests done to confirm and one of my arteries is 100 percent blocked,” the firefighter said. He added that the doctors came to the conclusion that the artery became clogged completely while Chalmers was playing street hockey with his son. Travis has two children and was very active before suffering the heart attack which is why it came as a complete surprise. He will be on daily medication for the rest of his life.

Being active, being fit, and working a very physical job makes it more significant when the Apple Watch signals that there is a problem. As Chalmers said, “Basically, it tells you something is different from what it’s been monitoring before, and if this is out of character for you, see a medical practitioner immediately.” His family does have a limited history of heart disease and  he warns others that “It can hit anyone at any time.” If it does hit, you might improve your odds of surviving by catching a problem early and that’s what the Apple Watch does in many cases like this one.

Hospital cardiologist says alerts from smartwatches make us look deeper into a patient’s issues

Dr. Ciorsti MacIntyre, a cardiologist at Halifax’s QEII infirmary, praised devices like the Apple Watch because they can alert users immediately when they have an abnormal heart rhythm. Dr. MacIntyre said, “Patients are coming to us with information from their wearable devices that we now have to deal with. It’s looking for irregularities in the heart rhythm and while atrial fibrillation can be a common cause of that irregularity, there are certainly other benign causes that could lead to it as well.”

While the doctor is happy to see people wearing smartwatches that can track their heart rhythms, she says that these devices have a tendency to make certain information sound more severe than it really is. Having said that, she states, “They actually do perform quite well but this false positive issue is certainly real. That’s why we wouldn’t base all our decisions necessarily from a watch. But it might make us look deeper into the issue with more medical-grade technology.”

In other words, as the first line of defense, devices like the Apple Watch can alert someone to a problem that they are having and lead them to head to the hospital where more advanced technology can be used to obtain a diagnosis and prognosis.

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