When I hear the word ‘technology’, I normally thing about smartphones, video games, virtual reality, and location-based services. Very rarely do I think of any wearable devices or medicine, but that has changed recently. I’ve always said that technology should enrich and enable your real life, and I’ve just gotten one of the best examples of how that manifests itself.
My wife has been diagnosed with a weird heart rhythm called Long QT. You can read the Wikipedia page here, and that’s about as much as I understand about it. I know it’s an abnormal heart rhythm and it can be fatal. After a few cardiologist appointments, it’s been decided that she’s going to get a defibrillator implanted in her chest. Since she’s about 7 months pregnant, and that’s such a major surgery, she will be wearing a Zoll LifeVest for a few months, until after our little bundle of joy is born.
The Zoll LifeVest is a fantastic example of technology enriching and enabling real life. It is basically a wearable defibrillator. For those that are not medically inclined, a defibrillator is those paddles that they use in TV shows to shock someone who is knocked out. You know the ones, where they rub them together and then yell, ‘CLEAR!’ and then the person’s body jerks from the shock. Yeah, intense stuff.
The Zoll LifeVest basically straps three of those paddles to you (two in the back, one on the front) and uses a series of sensors attached to a belt to detect your heartbeat. Here’s where it gets cool. The sensors hook up to a little wearable computer, about the size of a thick hardcover book. This thing has a battery and a touchscreen, and it listens to your heartbeat all day long. If it detects an abnormal rhythm, it sounds a very loud alarm, and you have 40 seconds to push two buttons to tell the device that you’re not unconscious. If you don’t press the buttons, you get the shock treatment. If you do, it delays the alarm, and the device continues to listen to your heart. If it detects that your heartbeat is back to normal, that’s it. If it doesn’t, it sounds another alarm and the whole process repeats.
It’s a pretty simple concept, but it’s amazing that they’re able to put it in such a small package. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that my wife is wearing this thing is immeasurable. I told her it’s like having an ambulance strapped to your back – always with you, always there. They actually sent a lady to our house to deliver it, measure Mrs. Guru for her vest, and gave us an hour-and-a-half demo of how it works, what it does, etc. It came with 2 batteries, so you can wear one and charge one, and you just swap them out every morning. The charging station also has a display, and uses the cellular network to phone home every night, uploading your heart’s stats back to our cardiologist.
The next step is for my wife to get an implantable defibrillator in her heart. This thing is about the size of a deck of cards and has a few wires coming out, which they insert into various sections of her heart. Like the LifeVest, this thing will monitor her heartbeat and deliver an electric shock if anything is off. Whereas the LifeVest is a temporary solution, the implantable defibrillator will be there for the rest of her life. I’m amazed at the technology available in medicine – my wife is going to, eventually, have a computer inside of her, keeping her heart beating normally. A regular Bionic Woman of sorts. Whereas the drugs she was taking were merely a ‘hopefully this will help’ type solution, thanks to technology, the defibrillator is nearly 100% effective – if she does have a heart failure, this thing will snap her back, and much faster than if we had a defibrillator in the house or had to wait for the ambulance to arrive.
What other examples can you think of where technology is enriching and enabling real life?