ECG on Apple Watch helped save a 61-year-old man from Indore: Here’s what happened
We’ve heard of quite a few stories of the Apple Watch saving people’s lives by sending out SOS messages when they have suddenly suffered a fall or by warning people of irregular heartbeat. And we have one of those stories coming in from India now.
Siddharth Rajhans’ father R. Rajhans is a 61-year-old retired pharmaceutical professional, living in Indore, whose life was saved thanks to the ECG on the Apple Watch.
Siddharth spoke to HT Tech to tell us what exactly happened.
Siddharth, who is currently studying at Harvard University, has worked for a few Silicon Valley companies in the past including a stint with Apple in Cupertino and Singapore. As a WWDC scholar, he has also been an iOS and watchOS developer. So it’s not surprising that he gave the Apple Watch Series 5, that launched last year, to his father to use.
His father has been using the Apple Watch since early 2020 and has been essentially fit and asymptomatic with no signs of any heart condition. Like many people above the age of 50, he suffers from hypertension, but besides that he has fit and fine. However, thanks to the pandemic since physical visits to the doctor had reduced, he had not visited the doctor since March this year.
In the months of March and April, Siddharth’s father started noticing that the Apple Watch has been notifying him about irregular heartbeats. The condition of irregular heartbeats is medically called arrhythmia. There were also instances where in the middle of the night the Apple Watch would notify him of irregular heartbeats.
The condition being was that of tachycardia which means high heart rate. In general, if you are resting and your heart rate is high, that’s an anomaly.
His heart rate could be routinely and regularly monitored thanks to the built-in ECG function on the Apple Watch and when the issue persisted, the family consulted their cardiologist.
The cardiologist diagnosed Siddharth’s father with a case of mitral regurgitation due to valve failure. Mitral regurgitation is one of the primary causes of cardiac arrests and other heart-related fatalities.
On open-heart surgery was performed on July 9 where the mitral valve was removed and replaced with an artificial bioprosthetic valve. Siddharth’s father is now safe and recovering.
Following this, Siddharth wrote to Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering, after the September 13 Apple event to drop a thank you note for the ECG on the Apple Watch and the new oximeter feature on the Apple Watch 6.
Siddharth said that it was thanks to the Apple Watch that they were able to realise that something was not right with his father and get help in time to save him. Had the ECG feature not been there and had the watch not sent them repeated notifications about irregular heartbeats, perhaps it would have taken them much longer to get his father the medical help he needed.
The fact that the ECG readings from the watch could also be exported as PDFs, helped prompt a further investigation in the case.
When Federighi learned about Siddharth’s father’s case, he encouraged him to write to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Siddharth write to Cook and Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives (also someone Siddharth has worked under) -
“Hi Tim & Lisa, I want to congratulate you on the new iPhone 12 line up and the event. It was really great! It has been a pleasure to have been associated with Apple over the years in various ways and I always cherish meeting Tim at WWDC 2016 in person. I wanted to share that my father, Mr. R. Rajhans underwent an open heart surgery recently. He had a Mitral Regurgitation or Mitral Valve failure that was detected in time, thanks to the ECG feature of the Apple Watch. It would have been next to impossible to do this during the ongoing pandemic and the ECG was instrumental in determining A-Fib and arrhythmia in his case, that led to further diagnosis. So, thank you for all that you do!”
To this, Cook replied -
“Siddharth, Thank you for sharing this. I am happy to note that your father received medical attention in time and I hope he is feeling better now. Our team will connect with you. Tim”.
With his father safe and recovering now, Siddharth is all prepared to give something back to the company, and the society, for the help he and his family has received. “I am developing an app for the Apple Watch that brings ECG, oximeter and pedometer on the same interface. Federighi has praised this idea, as it brings the power of the treadmill test (TMT) to the Apple watch. I would be doing this free of cost as a goodwill gesture soon,” he said.