Fitbit saved my life: mum

Cathy O'Leary, Medical EditorThe West Australian
VideoYoung Bunbury mum credits a fitness tracker for saving her life.

A young Bunbury mother is crediting a fitness tracker for saving her life after it led to her being diagnosed with a potentially deadly heart condition.

Soon after Felicity McQueen was given the device for her birthday in October last year, she noticed her heart rate rocket to more than 150 beats a minute. A normal resting heart rate is 60-100bpm.

“My partner Darryn gave me the tracker to help me get fit and lose weight, but I started feeling dizzy and weak and in the end I wasn’t going to the gym or doing any exercise,” Ms McQueen said.

“But the Fitbit showed my heart rate was going crazy.”

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The 35-year-old went to see her GP and was referred to a cardiologist who ordered a 24-hour Holter monitoring test — a type of portable ECG to record her heart activity.

The diagnosis stunned Ms McQueen. She had atrial fibrillation, a type of abnormal heart rhythm that stops the heart pumping blood around the body normally.

The fitness tracker that Felicity McQueen credits with saving her life.
Camera IconThe fitness tracker that Felicity McQueen credits with saving her life. Credit: Gofundme

If not diagnosed and treated, it can cause blood clots which can block blood supply to vital organs and lead to a stroke.

Ms McQueen was booked into a private hospital for ablation surgery, a long operation using radio-frequency waves to destroy the small area of heart tissue causing the arrhythmia.

The diagnosis shed light on her long history of health problems, including an irregular heart rate when pregnant with her now two-year-old daughter Olivia, which doctors did not investigate.

“I’ve never really felt right, with unexplained fatigue and fainting spells, but no one ever joined the dots and ordered tests, so I just lived with it,” Ms McQueen said.

“It took a mid-range fitness tracker to finally help work out what was wrong with me.”

But she had complications after the surgery which resulted in her being admitted to intensive care and more surgery.

Ms McQueen also had more pain after the hospital stay, finding out her mid-level health insurance did not cover many of her costs, despite advice that it would, leaving her $13,000 out of pocket.

She needs more surgery and will have to be fitted with a pacemaker if the next operation cannot correct her heart rate. A fundraising page to help Ms McQueen cover her expenses is gofundme.com/fit bit-discovers-heart-condition.

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