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September 25, 2020

How Understanding My WHOOP Data Helped Save My Life

Surviving a Heart Attack at Age 33 with Knowledge of Biometric Data.

By Pascal Fritsche

Most of you reading this title are probably thinking “This sounds a bit far fetched and exaggerated.” Others might be thinking it must be some sort of marketing stunt.

I’m here to tell you it means exactly what it says. If it weren’t for understanding my WHOOP data, I could be dead now.

I wouldn’t be able to write this story. My story. The story about how being in tune with my body and knowing my baseline WHOOP data may have saved my life. I don’t have a horse in this race, I’m not getting paid for doing this and I certainly don’t want anything for telling you what happened to me. I just want to share my experience with the world.

On Monday, August 24th, 2020, I suffered a severe heart attack. You might say “So what, that happens to plenty of people.” True, but I’m only 33 years old. Yes, that’s correct. I suffered a severe heart attack at the age of 33. As if 2020 isn’t the shittiest year already, am I right?

But let’s start at the beginning.

The day before the incident I played our golf club’s “Club Open,” and was not only able to win it, but actually defend my title for the second year in a row. Needless to say I was very excited and happy about it. I had my highest WHOOP strain to date (20.1 on a scale of 0-21), and my mood couldn’t have been better.

The next morning, I woke up with a slight pressure on my chest. Imagine someone sitting on your chest or having a kettlebell put on it. The pressure wasn’t constant, it came and went. I checked my WHOOP data from the night before and saw that my respiratory rate went up from 14.5 to 16.6. I recognized this as a potentially significant deviation from my baseline respiratory rate of 14.3, and knew that if this trend continued it could mean some sort of illness or distress.

Respiratory rate data tracked by WHOOP prior to heart attack.

Being a big golf addict, I’d read about a pro on the PGA Tour who had been able to recognize a deviation in his WHOOP data that led him to getting tested for COVID-19. Obviously, this is where my first thought went as well. There were plenty of people at the tournament and I could’ve been easily infected–I had to shake hands with the president for collecting my first-place prize, and so on.

And yet in my head I kept saying “You’re overreacting. Don’t be a hypochondriac. You probably just overdid it yesterday.” After taking another nap in the afternoon I didn’t feel that much better. In fact, the pressure I felt in my chest started to become constant, and at around 4:30 pm I began to feel dizzy and disoriented.

I checked my WHOOP data again and realized that my resting heart rate was through the roof. It’s usually right around 54 bpm, but on this day it had gone from 55 to 69. In addition to that, my heart rate variability dropped immensely from 53 to 27. In hindsight, I can’t believe that I didn’t think for one second about having a heart condition–my head was still stuck on coronavirus.

Resting heart rate anf heart rate variability tracked by WHOOP prior to heart attack.

This is the moment I felt strongly that something was off and I decided it was time to consult a medical professional. First I called my brother-in-law who is a nurse, and he immediately told me to go to the emergency room. So I did.

I called ahead in advance (which is required by COVID-19 rules here in Switzerland) and went into the ER. After telling them about my symptoms, everything went really quickly. I waited about 5 minutes and got taken into a room, where already I had a doctor and 3 nurses waiting for me. They started setting an IV and ran an EKG test. This is obviously where it dawned on me that this was not a COVID test…

After the EKG test spat out its results, I remember distinctly that my doctor said “Call the cardiologist and prep the OR.” That was when I finally opened my mouth and intervened. “Does anybody mind filling me in here??” The doctor replied with “Mr. Fritsche, it was very good that you came in. You had a severe heart attack and we will operate on you right away.”

Obviously, I was speechless and shocked. Never in a million years would I have guessed that at the age of 33 I’d have a doctor telling me this. Especially since I wouldn’t call myself an unhealthy person. I’m not overweight and I’m on the golf course at least 3 times a week. I watch what I eat, also.

After digesting the first shock of the diagnosis, I called my girlfriend (who was still waiting outside of the hospital thinking I’m having a COVID test), told her the news, and asked her to come in and inform my family.

The rest went by extremely fast. I got rolled into the OR where I had the procedure. The whole thing took maybe 40 minutes. It turns out my coronary artery was completely blocked.

My first night of recovery I spent in the ICU. I remember laying there and thinking “If I hadn’t had my WHOOP, I never would have known about my vitals dropping or rising. I wouldn’t have gone to the ER, and I would’ve spent the night at home.”

And according to my doctor, I would have died.

My cardiologist told me this after I recovered. He said “Mr. Fritsche, It was absolutely essential that you came in when you did. I had a case just today where a woman stayed at home for the night and came in the morning. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do anything for her.”

So there it is. Thankfully I had my WHOOP data at my fingertips to be able to understand that something might be wrong, and could act accordingly. So you can imagine, I’m never EVER taking my WHOOP off again!

Below is my heart rate data from that day. My heart attack happened right around 4:30 pm. It’s also worth noting that my WHOOP recovery was just 2% that morning, despite the fact that I got a decent amount of sleep the night before.

Heart rate data on the day of heart attack.

 

That is my story.

I’m happy to report that my rehab is going very well, and I’m getting healthier by the day. I’ve even been able to get back out on the golf course! WHOOP has been great for tracking my rehab, as I can follow along as my metrics return to normal.

Thank you for taking your time to read this, and to WHOOP, from the bottom of my heart, I’m forever thankful for your invention.

 

The products and services of WHOOP are not medical devices, are not intended to diagnose COVID-19, the flu or any other disease, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content available through the products and services of WHOOP is for general informational purposes only.

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Pascal Fritsche

Pascal Idris Fritsche, born in Basel, Switzerland is a 33 year old self-employed golf enthusiast. He strongly believes that the only way to be truly happy is to enjoy the little things and to be grateful for what you have. Don’t get hung up on the details, do what you love to do and cherish every second you have with your loved one’s. You might not get a second chance.

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