Retiree lauds his Apple Watch for saving his life after it alerted him to an abnormally low heart rate

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Series 9 and Watch SE together
(Image credit: Future / Britta O'Boyle)

The concept of an Apple Watch helping to save someone's life isn't a new one and long may that continue. Between the heart rate monitor, atrial fibrillation alerts, and the blood oxygen sensing technology, there is a lot going on inside an Apple Watch that has the potential to save a life. And that's before we get into the health benefits of knowing how much you've moved and tracking your workouts. So when we saw the news that an Apple Watch has helped save the life of a retired accountant in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, it wasn't a surprise. But it's still very much worth taking note of.

In this instance, the man wearing the Apple Watch was a 73-year-old who was laid in bed minding his own business when the wearable sent out an alert that something wasn't quite right. What ensued was a dash to a hospital and further tests which ultimately identified an issue that needed correcting. But strangely, the man didn't have any symptoms whatsoever and if it wasn't for the Apple Watch, he might never have known anything was amiss. And if he did, it could well have been too late to do something about it.

But the Apple Watch knew something wasn't write and alerted him to an abnormally slow heart rate — so slow that its wearer's heart was beating just 30 times a minute, or once every other second. And that's considerably slower than the usual 60 to 100 beats per minute range that people tend to find themselves in.

An asymptomatic complete heart block

According to a CBS News report, retiree Frank Haggerty had no idea that there was something wrong with his heart. He bought the Apple Watch because he "wanted to be cool" and "always thought [Apple Watches] were really sharp looking." They're hip, they're in style," he added.

And he isn't wrong. The best Apple Watch available today, the Apple Watch Ultra 2, definitely has an aesthetic and for those who don't like the rugged look, there's always the Apple Watch Series 9. But Haggerty had no idea how vital his purchase would turn out to be.

"My wife and I were sleeping and the alarm went off on the watch," Haggerty said, adding that "they put me in an ambulance and they rushed me to the hospital."

Once there, doctors were amazed that he wasn't lightheaded or felt any pain in his chest, but he said he was fine. Except he very much wasn't.

"He wound up having what is called complete heart block, which is an electrical phenomenon in the heart where the heart's intrinsic elect system malfunctions," Dr. Keith Wilson, Haggerty's cardiologist who works with Capitol Health, told CBS News.

Thankfully, the installation of a pacemaker means that Haggerty is now fighting fit and back to getting his steps in — presumably using his Apple Watch to track the workouts. But he's under no illusions as to the Apple Wach's role in his recovery.

"Quite frankly, had I not had the watch on, I wouldn't be sitting here today," Haggerty said. "It's my best friend, I say that in front of my wife."

The story is also proof that you don't have to buy the best model Apple sells to save a life, too. Haggerty was wearing an Apple Watch SE, the cheapest model in the lineup.

More from iMore

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.