Advertisement
  1. Health

'Seek medical attention,' her Apple Watch said. Good thing she did.

Deanna Recktenwald's Apple Watch told her to "seek medical attention" when her heart rate spiked randomly while she was in church. Physicans at Tampa General Hospital soon discovered her kidneys were on the brink of failure. [Photo courtesy Deanna Recktenwald]
Published May 3, 2018

Deanna Recktenwald remembers feeling slightly out of breath. But she chalked it up to being out of shape.

"I used to play volleyball at school. I was on the cheerleading squad and I was a gymnast for 13 years, but I hadn't been active in a while," said the 18-year-old from Lithia. Then her Apple Watch pinged.

"Take a breath," the watch told her.

A few minutes later, it pinged again. "Take a minute to breathe," it said.

The watch's health app also was tracking her heart rate, which spiked to 120 beats per minute, then 130.

The last message from the watch said "seek medical attention."

So Recktenwald told her mom, who was sitting with her in church last Sunday.

Stacey Recktenwald, a registered nurse, monitored her daughter's heart rate for about an hour and confirmed the results from the watch. She took her daughter to an urgent care clinic, where doctors and nurses seemed skeptical.

"They didn't believe us at first," Deanna Recktenwald said. "But then they took my pulse and told us we should go to the emergency room."

Blood work taken at Tampa General Hospital revealed that Deanna's kidneys were barely functioning, at just 20 percent. A biopsy later would lead to the diagnosis of alport syndrome, a genetic condition characterized by kidney disease.

"Deanna is a healthy child. She had no other symptoms," Stacey Recktenwald said. "I'm just so grateful for the watch."

To her, it had been just a fitness device, with not a piece of medical equipment.

MORE HEALTH COVERAGE: Here are the top five things killing Floridians, new study says

But the Apple Watch's abilities as a health monitoring system have piqued the interest of physicians worldwide, said Dr. Peter Chang, chief medical informatics officer at Tampa General.

"This technology started with the Fitbit, which tracks steps. But the Apple Watch can in fact track heart rate, and this device and others are being used by physicians to 'fill in the gap' information-wise from when a patient leaves the hospital or doctor's office, to when they see them again," Chang said.

The watch uses green LED lights on its underside to detect the amount of blood flowing through the wrist and track the heart rate. Other wearable tech devices use low electric pulses to do so.

Chang says these tracking methods are, for the most part, fairly accurate.

"Because of this technology, and Bluetooth, we can use the information saved on something like an Apple Watch and import it into our medical records systems at some hospitals," Chang said. "Some studies show that tech like this can be just as accurate as an EKG (electrocardiography) reading."

In November, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Apple Watch's heart rate monitoring system, making it the first medical device of its kind to receive FDA approval. Apple also launched an initiative called the "Apple Heart Study" where the company will collect heart rate data for future research.

Chang thinks this is just the beginning.

"There are devices that can track weight gain and other health concerns," he said. "But wearable devices like the Apple Watch provide the lowest cost way for patients to keep track of their health and manage better outcomes."

Deanna Recktenwald is on the road to recovery, which will require life-long maintenance of the syndrome and a potential transplant later in her life. But the senior at Foundation Christian Academy in Valrico is looking forward to a bright future, with plans to attend Southeastern University in the fall.

"I want to be a nurse practitioner like my mom," she said. "I do believe the watch was a blessing."

Deanna got it as a Christmas gift and uses it mostly to check Instagram, her mother said.

"If she went away to college not knowing about this condition, who knows what could have happened?"

After the trip to the hospital, Stacey Recktenwald reached out to the Silicon Valley technology company to express her thanks.

"On the Apple website, there's a box to send messages but I couldn't put my gratitude into 600 characters or less," she said. "So I called the Apple Store and they forwarded it on to corporate."

Soon after, Recktenwald got an email from Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple.

He thanked her and said he was glad Deanna was OK.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Dr. Philip Adler treated generations of Tampa children, including Hannah Millman, who was 2 years old at the time of this visit. Times (1985)
    The Tampa pediatrician also played a prominent role in desegregating local hospital care.
  2. Reginald Ferguson, center, a resident of the Kenwood Inn in St. Petersburg, talks with Rachel Ilic, an environmental epidemiologist, left, and Fannie Vaughn, right, a nurse with the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County. The health team was encouraging residents to get vaccinated against hepatitis A, part of a larger effort to address an outbreak of the virus in Florida. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The effort started in Pinellas, where health department “foot teams” are knocking on doors in neighborhoods at higher risk for the virus.
  3. A nurse at Tampa General Hospital holds a special stethoscope used for critical patients in the Jennifer Leigh Muma Neonatal Intensive Care Unit there. The hospital received a C grade from Leapfrog, an independent nonprofit which ranks hospitals nationally for patient safety. Times (2018)
    Leapfrog, an independent nonprofit, rated hospitals based on hand washing, infection rates, patient falls and other factors.
  4. Most of the time (55%), older spouses are caregiving alone as husbands or wives come to the end of their lives, without help from their children, other family members or friends or paid home health aides, according to research published earlier this year. [Times (2011)]
    Compared to adult children who care for their parents, spouses perform more tasks and assume greater physical and financial burdens when they become caregivers.
  5. “Coming out,” as providers call it, is not easy. But when people ask her specialty, Dr. Jewel Brown of Tampa owns it. She wants to be an abortion provider. Becoming one, she has found, takes determination at every step of the way. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Florida providers seek training and work extra hours to give patients anything they might need.
  6. Nurses at Tampa General Hospital came up with the idea to turn sterile mats used in the operating room into sleeping bags for the homeless. From left are: Lucy Gurka, Claudia Hibbert, Karley Wright and Nicole Hubbard. Courtesy of Tampa General Hospital
    The paper-thin material is waterproof and holds heat, “like an envelope that you can slide into.”
  7. Tampa City Hall. TIM NICKENS  |  Times
    City attorneys intend to appeal a U.S. district judge’s ruling last month overturning Tampa’s ban of a treatment that has been deemed harmful and ineffective.
  8. Messiah Davis, 19 months old, choked on hamburger meat while at a South Tampa child care center and lost oxygen to his brain. He died four days later. His mother has filed a wrongful death suit. Facebook
    Felicia Davis has filed a wrongful death suit, saying Kiddie Kollege failed to save her child and questioning why he was fed hamburger.
  9. At Surterra’s facility on the outskirts of Tallahassee, Cultivation Manager Wes Conner displays the fully grown flower of one of the company’s marijuana plants in 2016. (Associated Press | 2016)
    The state business has 277,000 patients and counting.
  10. Ms. Betty Brown, 72, arrives home from Walmart with her groceries. Brown drives over two miles to get to the Walmart, the only shopping center available since two supermarkets closed in midtown, a predominately African American neighborhood. Ms. Brown says she is fortunate to have a car. Many other people she knows in the neighborhood who are elderly or disabled, rely on public transportation, making it hard to grocery shop. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    A grocery co-op conceived in 2017 is off to a slow start as it strives to build membership.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement