In 1982, I was diagnosed with a rare heart arrhythmia and underwent a successful AV ablation procedure which left me 100% pacemaker dependent. I have no underlying heart rhythm, and am now on my seventh device. In 2010, due to complications and an infection, I lost 50 per cent of my heart function too, and had to have open heart surgery in 2010.
Leaving hospital to go home was terrifying: I could have curled up into a ball, counting my heartbeats in a rising state of panic. I could have lived a small life fraught with worry. But I didn’t want that, so I set myself some big goals. Rather than simply ‘recover’, I decided to do a bike race and marathon. Being able to let technology count and regulate my heartbeat for me, allowed me to set aside my fear and think about what I could do, rather than what I couldn’t.
Thanks to my pacemaker, wearable devices and mobile apps I had the data I needed to get from the hospital bed to the finish line of a 50-mile bike race. Armed with my heart rate data and real-time insights, I now compete in endurance cycling events around the world. Having completed multiple 200-mile single-day bike races and multi-day mountain bike stage races, I trained my pacemaker to run and swim, enabling me to take on and complete my first Ironman event last November.
The technology, the data, the machine learning have meant that I could get my life back, feeling safe and steadily more confident. Instead of being a patient or a victim, I see myself as an athlete working on my performance goals. When I started at Google eight years ago, I took advantage of the company’s policy which encourages employees to spend 20 per cent of their time following up something they are passionate about. For me that was digital healthcare. Today, I promote healthcare in the Google Cloud, building the infrastructure and tools to enable digital transformation – through data interoperability and use of AI algorithms to deliver actionable insights quickly to the right stakeholders.
I am excited about the future of digital healthcare and wellness, and the potential to deliver this to people where they are – instead of requiring them to come into clinics. Thirty-seven years ago, none of these facilities were available and my experience as a heart patient was a lonely one. Today, I feel fortunate to be able to live a full life, transformed by technology. These are exciting times, and there is plenty more to come. I feel privileged to be part of this important and accelerating evolution, and I look forward to sharing more of my story as well as my hopes and predictions with you at Amplexor’s BE THE EXPERT conference.
Heidi’s greatly anticipated key-note session at Amplexor’s virtual BE THE EXPERT forum, hosted online from Tuesday 26 May to Friday 29 May, opens the event on the first day at 14.30 CET. It is titled, “Heart of the Possible: Healthcare Transformation.”
Click the link below to save your seat!
Heidi Dohse is a Senior Program Manager at Google, working with the Cloud Healthcare & Life Sciences organization. She is a lifelong heart patient and enthusiastic athlete and founder of Tour de Heart. Heidi is passionate about improving patient outcomes and partners with physicians and researchers around the world to provide insights regarding the patient experience and ideas for engagement. She travels globally educating audiences on digital health, data and healthcare.