Skip to main content

How Apple Watch saved one man’s life — and how it’s empowering him after his heart attack

Apple and Stanford are currently conducting a heart study with Apple Watch

Scott Killian never imagined his Apple Watch might save his life, but that’s exactly what happened a few weeks ago when he had a heart attack in the middle of the night. Killian recently shared his personal experience with 9to5Mac, and the details of his story are absolutely amazing.

“Big fan of the Apple Watch right now,” he told me. It’s easy to understand why.

A few months shy of turning 50, Killian says he recently underwent a nuclear stress test and metabolic workout to rule out any health concerns associated with his age. After thousands of dollars of tests, he was cleared without issue.

Killian is an attorney so his job comes with a high level of stress, but he also works in law enforcement and regularly boxes and runs to maintain proper physical health.

He had no reason to expect a heart attack and actually took steps to proactively be aware of any pending medical issues.

Then Killian, who wears his Apple Watch to bed three to four nights a week for sleep tracking, says his Apple Watch woke him up around 1 am with an alert from a third-party app called HeartWatch saying his resting heart rate was elevated while sleeping (Apple recently introduced a built-in feature that can do this with Apple Watch Series 1 and later). Killian experienced mild indigestion which can be a sign of a heart attack, but says he generally didn’t feel sick.

His Apple Watch charted his heart rate at around 121 beats per minute in the middle of the night while data previously captured showed his average resting heart rate at around 49 beats per minute. The data also showed that this was the first time his resting heart rate had reached this level since he began wearing Apple Watch, so he decided to go to the emergency room as a precaution.

Killian says he told his wife while they were waiting in the ER that he felt like they were wasting time and money, then the hospital connected him to an EKG machine.

While the results reported back as normal, he says he noticed his heart rate was still elevated. His Apple Watch was “dead accurate” with the beats per minute reported by the hospital’s machinery.

Then the hospital took a blood test and discovered an elevated enzyme that signals a heart attack has occurred or is occurring. Further testing revealed four blocked arteries which required the insertion of four stents (inflated titanium carbon fiber sleeves) to correct.

“Ten thousand dollars in tests. None of this came out,” Killian says. He told his surgeon that the Apple Watch is what prompted him to go to the ER, and his surgeon’s response was remarkable.

“He said had I kept sleeping, I probably wouldn’t have woken up. I would have died in my sleep.”

This especially struck me personally because my grandfather died at 55 from a heart attack in the middle of the night — 13 years before the Apple Watch existed. Now, this technology is accessible for a few hundred dollars and can actually save lives.

I asked Scott Killian why he originally bought an Apple Watch. His answer was not for health and fitness tracking, but instead for productivity. Now, he says every time he looks at his watch, it clicks in his head that it saved his life.

“I always wore good Swiss watches and the only reason I switched to an Apple Watch is because it sets alarms and timers that keep me on task at work. The thing actually saved my life. I think every man 50 years old should be wearing one of these things.”

Killian plans to stop boxing after his heart attack, but he purchased a home workout machine to maintain his physical activity. He also purchased AliveCor’s Kardia Band for Apple Watch — an FDA approved EKG reader — so he can have access to EKG readouts that can be shared with doctors in seconds without going to a hospital.

The combination of Apple Watch and Kardia Band, which costs $199 and requires a $99/year subscription for its medical service, is giving Scott Killian the chance to continue a healthy workout routine without unknowingly putting his heart in danger.

“There’s a really big psychological deficit to having a heart attack in that your feeling of being strong and healthy evaporates overnight,” Killian told me.

Any bit of discomfort understandably creates anxiety that your heart is failing. Apple Watch not only saved Scott Killian’s life, but now it’s empowering him to manage his life after the heart attack.

“How good is it to know that you’re having a problem right now? Whenever I feel a little bit unsettled, I can just press a button and get an EKG. That in itself is going to make me feel a lot better.”


FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel



Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.