Central DuPage doctor credits smartwatch with saving Winfield man injured in fall


It’s a Christmas present that continues to deliver. The Apple Watch Boyd Roberts’ children gifted him may have saved him from serious injury. The 73-year-old Winfield resident was home alone when he fell and lost consciousness. The fall detection feature on his Apple Watch triggered a 911 alert. Winfield Police responded and found Roberts disoriented and bleeding from his head.

An ambulance transported Roberts to Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, where a CT scan revealed contusion to the brain, a form of traumatic brain injury that causes bleeding and swelling. Doctors quickly checked his blood pressure to prevent further bleeding and pressure inside his skull.

“The watch saved him,” said Osaama H. ​​Khan, MD, neurosurgeon at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. “Without prompt medical attention, Mr. Roberts may have injured himself further, or his neurological condition may have worsened.”

Boyd’s wife, Susan, encouraged their children to buy the watch for their Father on Christmas specifically for the fall detection feature, as he had fallen in the past, having broken a few ribs. The Roberts agree that the watch has given them both more independence.

“Before, I was afraid to leave him alone,” says Susan. “Now I can go shopping without worrying too much.”

“She doesn’t have to get so high on me,” Boyd joked. But his tone gets more serious when discussing his main motivation for getting the watch.

“When you fall, your pride kicks in and you don’t want to disturb first responders,” Boyd said. “This pride is pre-empted by autodetection because you don’t have to activate the call to 911. Or, as in my case, you can’t call 911.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 800,000 patients are hospitalized each year because of a fall, most often with a head trauma or hip fracture.

Boyd spent several days in the hospital being monitored for the head injury and tested to determine if another health issue caused him to pass out or fall. A small loop recorder was implanted just under the skin of his chest to continuously monitor his heart rate and help clinicians make a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.

“The data, which is transmitted wirelessly to our offices while Mr. Roberts is at home, will tell us if there’s a heart defect that causes him to fall,” said Todd T. Tomson, MD, cardiac electrophysiologist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.

Boyd quickly returned to his active life, volunteering at a local elementary school and serving as president of his homeowners association. The fifth graders he taught sent him math problems to keep his brain sharp and jokes to make him laugh.

“Mr. Roberts’ story shows that the fall detection feature can be useful for people at risk of falling,” said Dr Tomson. “He clearly received medical attention much sooner than if he didn’t.”


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