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'It saved my life': Cleveland man credits Apple Watch for life-saving medical discovery

Apple Watch saves man from Cleveland
Posted at 6:37 PM, Mar 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-16 19:19:40-04

CLEVELAND — It's something that many people wear to check texts and take calls, but for Ken Counihan, his Apple Watch became much more than that—it became a life-saver.

Counihan wears his Apple Watch for many reasons, such as taking calls, tracking his workouts and playing music.

"I am very active and I do — I like to keep track of what I'm doing — calorie stuff," Counihan said. "I'll take it off and charge it so that I can wear it during the day...I wear it to bed as well — keep track of sleep too."

The watch has become a part of his daily routine, but this past October, the watch took on a bigger role.

"I got an alert back in October that my breathing was elevated. So basically you have a certain number of breaths per minute, basically said I went from 14 to 17 or 18," Counihan said. "My wife had me make a phone call to my son and he suggested I go to the outpatient care, get it looked at, which is what I did. And they just did an X-ray. And they gave me some meds for bronchitis at the time."

Counihan had thought his watch had flagged him to a minor illness. He went home and prepared to rest. But then his watch gave him one more alert and made it clear something was definitely off.

"My blood oxygen—which is normally mid-90s, which is what is supposed to be, kind of 95 and up—started to get out to the mid-80s," Counihan said. "It was 10 o'clock at night. My wife was very concerned. My son was very concerned. I was like 'I just want to go to bed. I'm tired…and they were both like 'No, you've got to get to the ER."

Another trip for observation, but with the numbers he provided and the background his Apple Watch was able to relay to him, doctors ordered more scans, this time finding something much more severe than bronchitis.

"They took me back to the CT scan and found that I had blood clots all over my lungs," he said.

Dr. Lucy Franjic, an emergency medical physician at Cleveland Clinic, said blood clots are a truly serious condition that could have cost Counihan his life.

"Blood clots actually can become a life-threatening condition if they're not caught early enough," she said.

"What the doctor said as a follow-up was it if I hadn't gone in, he said 60% of the people that have this condition at that stage—if I gone to bed, I may not have woken up the next morning," Counihan said.

Devices like Counihan's Apple Watch are no strangers to helping people find medical ailments. Franjic herself said many patients come in with information they've obtained via their smart watches and devices.

"We do have patients that come in and they do notice these trends of 'my heart rate's higher than usual' or 'it's showing me that... I'm having an abnormal rhythm,'" Franjic said. "And so having those pieces of information can kind of just help the physician to try and diagnose what the underlying issue is and to help prevent any life-threatening emergencies from occurring."

Counihan credits his watch for saving his life. Since the discovery, he's been on blood thinners and is feeling much better. Even more, he's got a new lease on life.

"I've got three kids and two grandkids, hopefully some more grandkids in the next couple years, I just want to continue to enjoy that," Counihan said. "I've got friends that have gone out and bought an Apple Watch as a result. I just had dinner with a friend the other night...and he's looking to get an Apple Watch now as well. It saved my life. It's amazing."

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