Money can free up your time but can’t give you more of it.
Money can buy you better health care but can’t give you good health.
Money can buy you expensive watches but it can’t buy you time… or can it?
What does it really mean to buy time? The harsh reality is, no sum of money can change the fact that all of our lives are finite, but maybe the purchases and choices we make with that money can keep you healthier, fitter or monitor your health, in a sense buying you time in the hope of staving off illness.
Enter stage, the Apple Watch… A watch that buys you time.
This is a personal story of the impact an Apple Watch made on my family and how I came to be a daily Apple Watch user (even though initially I was very sceptical of strapping a mini-phone to my wrist).
The story starts in 2015 with what could now be considered a historic moment for Apple when they first announced the OG Apple Watch, a humble version of what we know it to be today. I am a self-confessed tech geek, mainly thanks to my dad, who was a day one adopter of the Apple Watch Series 0. It wasn’t the lack of cash as a poor art student that stopped me from buying the first Apple Watch, but scepticism of its purpose and I stand by that choice today, the original Apple Watch merely gave you phone notifications on your wrist, not a very compelling use case then or now. But, I wasn’t going to get off that easily, what followed my dads’ adoption of the Apple Watch was his continued attempts to pitch it to me at every opportunity, trying to convince me to purchase one as well.
I won’t dwell on the many versions that have followed since Apple first announced their watch, at times we’ve seen many small iterative changes. That was until September 2018, when Apple announced the Series 4 model of the Apple Watch with the new ECG (Electrocardiogram) feature. An update that gave the Apple Watch the ability to check for unusually high or low heart rates in the background, which can be signs of a serious underlying condition. As with all Apple functionality, it just worked, in the background, with little thought from the user, another feature that again proves why Apple continuously dominate the smartphone, tablet and smartwatch markets. For me personally, this is where the story really starts, and when I was convinced to wear an Apple Watch as well.
The very same year the Series 4 was announced my dad was diagnosed with a very rare and incurable condition called AL Amyloidosis. A condition that causes the body to produce abnormal protein fibres that build up in organs and tissues throughout the body, ultimately stiffening said organ and causing it to fail. There is no cure for Amyloidosis but a variety of different treatment options that can work, but with a large percentage of people, unfortunately, don’t. A condition that affects only 4,000 people a year in the US, so little is really known about how to treat it.
By this point in time, my dad had worn his Apple Watch every day for four years, and with the announcement of the Series 4, he made the upgrade, as he did every year, convinced it was finally a worthwhile upgrade with the ECG functionality, the same rationale we all make when upgrading tech more often than we should. His constant barrage of pitches had finally worked and with this newly added functionality, I decided to purchase a Series 4 watch as well. My Dad and I at this stage in time didn’t really have much need for ECG functionality, but Apple’s usual outstanding presentations and marketing had convinced us it was something we should monitor, and who knows… maybe one day it might save our lives.
Little did we know, just how important that purchase proved to be. It was around 9 months later when Dad’s medical care hadn’t been proving as successful as they hoped, that they decided to give him a break after nearly a year of intense treatment. During that break, having been isolated at home because of the treatment lowering his immune system, my Dad decided to take himself and my Mum to Spain for 10 days to relax and get some sunshine, away from the constant grey clouds and rain we always have in the UK.
The dreaded notification… “Your heart has shown signs of an irregular rhythm suggestive of atrial fibrillation”
It was a few days into that trip that he was notified by his Apple Watch with the message “Your heart has shown signs of an irregular rhythm suggestive of atrial fibrillation”. I can only imagine how he felt at that moment, especially given at this stage my Dad’s Amyloidosis had not begun to affect a specific organ such as his heart but was this the warning it had started? The next few days were a blur of Spanish doctors in a local hospital trying to translate what they were talking about to my Mum and Dad, whilst they tried to arrange being flown back to the UK for care under their doctor who specialised in Amyloidosis. Eventually, they were able to communicate that my dad did in fact have AFib (atrial fibrillation) but the doctors there didn’t quite know what that meant for him with his condition.
Several days later, once stable enough they managed to get my Dad back to the UK to meet with his doctor. They confirmed the Amyloidosis had in fact begun to deposit in his heart, which was gut-wrenching news, Cardiac Amyloidosis was the type we were warned was especially fatal. The doctors explained this was now very serious and a race against time as the amyloid builds up, stiffening his heart and ultimately putting him into heart failure. It was time to ramp up the treatment again and put my Dad on new cardiac medication. The one glimmer of light was spotting this soon, ‘which always makes it a slightly easier fight’ said the doctors, and for that, we had the Apple Watch to thank. Otherwise, it could have been a few weeks before his next scheduled ECG with the doctor, and they were certain if it had been discovered at that stage, things would have been much worse. The Apple Watch had bought him time, more time to fight the disease, more time to prevent it and get ahead of it deteriorating.
Throughout the treatment my Dad always remained positive and during talks with the doctor, they asked how he first came to discover the AFib, to which he explained he had been wearing a new Apple Watch. The doctor was impressed and compared the ECG against his own medical grade analysis to see fairly cohesive patterns, proving the effectiveness of the results given by the watch. He may or may not have tried to convince the doctor to get an Apple Watch at this point (an influencer without even realising it).
My Dad’s condition continued to deteriorate over the next 12–14 months and unfortunately in December 2019, he passed away from heart failure. He had battled day in day out, taking every drug the doctor recommended, went through treatments and experiences I sometimes doubt I would have the same strength to fight.
Writing this article I thought it would be cathartic, to write about my dad after what has been such a horrible experience and time in our lives and it was, but at times it kind of felt like a love letter to Apple, and in part, I guess it is. I’m thankful he was such a techy guy, thankful he did buy the Apple Watch, and thankful Apple went out of their way to add features so many would consider excessive to a product originally considered just an extension of your smartphone. But, ultimately, his Apple Watch bought him time, it bought us all time, time together. If he hadn’t upgraded and worn that Series 4 Watch (which he upgraded to a Series 5 whilst ill, sickness didn’t distract my dad from his love for tech) we know those 12 or so months we had with him, would have been cut short. I’m so grateful I got more time with him, even though it never feels like enough.
So my message to you, the few people that may read this, is to consider an Apple Watch if you haven’t already, and if you own an older one, please think about some of the newer models with ECG and SPO2 functionality. I still wear my Series 4, every day, and I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, in the hope that one day if I’m unfortunate enough to experience anything like my Dad, it may give me signs about it early on and hopefully save my life, or at the very least, buy me time.