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Apple Watch, grief, and fixing broken hearts - a death in the family

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A car crash a month ago didn't give my doctor and my Apple Watch enough data to figure out what my cardiac problem was — but the death of my daughter did.

At about 8:30 PM on Thursday, and after a very, very long illness, my daughter died. Believe it or not, that isn't the full point of this story, though.

As you may expect, when the adrenaline wore off, I was hysterical on Thursday night. On Friday — which should probably still count as Thursday, since I didn't sleep one minute — I was immersed in paperwork, phone calls, plus the logistics and financials of the death industry. Saturday was better, but not by a lot.

On Sunday morning, my Apple Watch told me it was time to call my doctor.

Grief, and body chemistry

This isn't quite an "Apple Watch saved my life" story. What it is, though, is a story about how the Apple Watch will keep me off that shrine for the dearly departed that led the article here for longer, and praise for the Apple Watch for being a remote data point.

Thursday and Friday were rough. My entire body hurt from not just providing CPR before the ambulances arrived, but also from two full days of tears. Full credit to Fairfax County EMS for their response, by the way — they were here about four minutes after we called 911 — on the Apple Watch too.

On Sunday, after finally sleeping for longer than 15 minutes at a time, my entire body still hurt, all the way down to my toes. I initially dismissed it as carry-over and grief.

About an hour after I got up, the watch alerted me to a potential atrial fibrillation. I called my cardiologist immediately, and he had me come in. Yes, a doctor's visit outside of an emergency room on a Sunday.

If this is your first visit to this saga, in early June, my doctors needed an additional source of cardiac data to track down what was a sporadic issue. This issue was relatively minor, but worth tracking down, so it didn't get any worse.

We've already spoken more about why I put on the Apple Watch after holding out for years, and what it's already done for me. Obviously, though, I wasn't expecting a dramatic point of action so quickly in the process, beyond that car accident far away from home in July.

Simplifying a complicated story, I was suffering from Takotsubo cardiomyopathy — also called broken heart syndrome — starting on Saturday and progressing into Sunday. That, in turn, gave us enough data to figure out what was going on, in the grander scheme of things.

For now, I'm medicated for it, and the over-arching (minor, fortunately) issue. I will ultimately need to go in for a catheterization, but that's relatively non-invasive and out-patient, and so non-urgent that it isn't even scheduled yet and probably won't happen in 2021.

That procedure will solve my issue that would have been incredibly hard to diagnose without the Apple Watch bearing silent witness to my health.

Hard lessons, and a harsh teacher — but necessary

I'm not going to fill AppleInsider space with a long eulogy. It's not hard to find, though.

Her being been disabled and wracked with seizures constantly since 2008 caused a chain of events for well over a decade that impacted my health and led me to this point. For starters, her disability forced me to reconsider my career path. With long-term profound caretaking needs manifesting all of a sudden, it wasn't practical to work in an office, even some of the time.

In parallel, with her diagnosis, came treatments that required me to learn how to give intramuscular injections daily, and other practical matters. Also during that time frame, there were more familial health challenges.

This is all compounded by my obsession with finding a new medicine, a new therapy, or a new direction for treatment. This mostly resulted in no real gain and lost time — and my health wasn't always a priority while I was doing it.

There are good aspects of work from home, and bad, and I've been doing it for what feels like forever. The bad can include a slow slide in health, because those potato chips are fast and easy, in times when you're hungry and Epic sues Apple or Steve Jobs passes, and time is critical.

I've been better about my health for the last five years after we settled into a period of nothing new popping out of the medical industry since about 2012. And, as I've mentioned before, I've taken steps beyond the Apple Watch.

For those of you with a loved one with profound caretaking needs — take care of yourself, because there's more riding on it than just your own fate. As part of my own caretaking, I'm working now against the suggestions of site ownership, because I know myself and my own grief response. If I don't work, I'll be too far lost in my thoughts for my own good.

For everybody else, there are folks that love you and rely on you just the same. While the Apple Watch isn't for everybody — especially at the high end — there are steps you can take to make your health just a bit better, and not end up on your family's version of a shrine too soon.