How Wearable Technology Saved One Local Girl’s Life

A 12-year-old girl’s Apple Watch alerted her of a dangerously high heart rate, allowing her to seek medical help before her illness became too grave.
More than an accessory: Without her Apple Watch, Imani Miles might not have survived a rare illness, her mother says. Photograph by Chuk Nowak.

For 12-year-old Imani Miles, her Apple Watch is more than just an accessory. It is what she says saved her life.

It was nighttime when Imani’s mom, Jessica Kitchen of Flushing, noticed the constant beeps from her daughter’s Apple Watch, alerting Imani to an abnormally high heart rate.

“That’s really weird because it’s never happened before,” Kitchen says. “It just kept going off.”

Concerned, Kitchen took her daughter to the hospital, where doctors removed Imani’s appendix as treatment for appendicitis. It was then that they learned of a neuroendocrine tumor on her appendix, very rarely seen in children.

“If [the watch] didn’t go off, I probably would have just waited and taken her in the next couple of days,” Kitchen says.

By the time doctors discovered Imani’s tumor, the cancer had already spread to other parts of her body, requiring her to undergo surgery to remove it.

“Wearables play a crucial role in supporting people to build better health behaviors,” says João Bocas, aka The Wearables Expert, one of the world’s top thought leaders in wearable tech. “Wearables on their own will not be a miracle, but with the combination of human effort they can improve well-being.”

As of 2019, wearable tech has grown into a $1 billion business, according to The Journal for Nurse Practitioners. Kitchen says her initial feeling was one of gratitude that the watch had alerted her to Imani’s condition before it was too late.

“If she didn’t have that watch, it could have been so much worse,” Kitchen says.

Imani’s surgery at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital was successful, and she at press time was recovering at home. She wears her Apple Watch every day, and she and her mother now spread the word about the benefits of wearable technology.

This story is from the Moving Medicine Forward feature in the October 2022 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.