“The monitor was so easy to wear and stayed on as it was supposed to.”
Drew Nederpelt enjoys adventure and he’s had experiences that take him around the world. He never really worried about his health, including his heart, until he found the love of his life.
Drew grew up in Toronto, Amsterdam and Zurich, and Dutch was his first language. After college, he started a career in consulting that led him to Bentonville, Arkansas – home of Walmart. In the late 90s, Drew’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to start a technology company, then when that industry crashed in 2000, he started a Manhattan literary agency, then a successful publishing operation that lasted a decade. When that industry was upended by digital, Drew moved onto television-- founding the Health & Wellness Channel which aired on DirecTV-- magazines, hosting radio shows and even recently added stand-up comedy to his list of career experiences. He also found time for various athletic activities including running marathons and more recently, triathlon competitions.
After a decade and a half in the Big Apple, Drew moved to Florida for a climate that supported a less stressful lifestyle, and it was there he met his wife. It was his marriage proposal and wedding that led Drew to think more consciously about his heart health. He and his wife had settled on a healthy lifestyle that included managing the stress in their life. For both of them, this even meant avoiding the daily stress of driving in Miami traffic, so they sold their cars and rely instead on walking, biking or Uber. This change, and the focus on a healthy lifestyle, led Drew to find a new physician. It was that primary care doctor that encouraged him to see a cardiologist after they detected an arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm, during his exam.
The physician assistant (PA) at the cardiology clinic asked Drew if he felt anything different as he watched the early moments on the EKG. Drew thought if he was having an arrhythmia 90 seconds into testing, he could be having these episodes throughout the day and he began to panic. After the 10-minute EKG reading was over, the PA showed Drew three examples where his heart beat early.
Drew did the math: three episodes in ten minutes, means potentially 18 per hour, which could be more than 400 per day, and 3,000 each week! As his panic continued, the PA opened a box and took out a patch-based, wireless sensor. He introduced Drew to the BodyGuardian® MINI and told Drew to charge the battery after about 5 days. The monitor was about the size of a car key fob and was placed on his chest using an adhesive strip. Drew was told to press the button on the top of the monitor when he felt a cardiac episode.
“Considering I had no idea I had an arrhythmia until 12 minutes earlier, it was all a bit overwhelming,” said Drew. “Now that I was aware I was part of a club no one wanted to be part of, I wanted to press the button constantly. Going from someone who believes they are heart-healthy to someone who clearly has a heart issue means that nothing is going through your mind but that fact.”
He left the office with a box that contained additional adhesive strips and the charging cable (a simple micro USB). The preparation seemed simple enough: wear a tiny, waterproof heart monitor, no skin abrasion or alcohol, he could go about his daily activities as normal, including bathing, swimming and showering, for two weeks while his cardiologist would monitor for arrhythmias. At the same time, Drew had recently lost a significant amount of weight as he got in shape for his wedding, and he was excited about the opportunity to have access to detailed data about how his heart was working and responding to his lifestyle changes.
Who needs a jumpstart?
On his drive home from the doctor, Drew decided he wanted to be diligent in tracking any arrhythmias and he committed to a diary to track what he did throughout the day with the hope that it could provide some indication of what might be causing his heart to have irregular rhythms. As an active triathlete and weekend warrior, he dreaded the possibility that he might have to limit his participation in triathlons. As part of the two-week monitoring period, Drew did get permission to race in a triathlon while wearing the remote heart monitor. As long as he was wearing the monitor, why not put his heart through its paces?
For the first few days Drew was conscious of the little black monitor he wore on his chest. At first he found himself sleeping in strange positions, then the lack of rest pushed him to forget about the monitor at night and everything worked well. Depending on the shirt he was wearing, there were times he was conscious of the monitor showing, but it was easy to wear and stayed on as it was supposed to. He also found the adhesive strips easy to change. Drew continued morning workouts: sixty minutes of cardio and thirty minutes of weights. He also took a trip to New York City with his wife for his birthday.
“Although it was safe to wear the monitor while traveling on an aircraft, I was not looking forward to the airport as I had never had to get special dispensation to get through security, but I simply told them I had a heart monitor on and TSA was very accommodating,” said Drew. “I guess they felt sorry for the poor guy with the bad heart.”
In NYC, Drew exercised and ate and drank and walked all around town. While he could feel the unit, after about the fifth day he decided to think about it as a friend who was monitoring his heart while he went about his daily routine. Throughout the two weeks wearing the heart monitor, Drew used his own tracking spreadsheet and noted anything that he thought might affect his heart – exercise, sex, alcohol, vitamins, supplements, medication (including his blood-pressure medicine), stressful news, driving in Miami, and anything else he thought was relevant to his heart rate. The triathlon competition took place two days before he was to send back his heart monitor to get the data interpreted.
Less than two weeks later his cardiologist had the data from the device and Drew was told he had less than one percent arrhythmia – 2,733 irregular beats over two weeks. Drew was given his heart monitoring report and he compared it to his tracking spreadsheet of activities. He found the data fairly easy to understand and noted a slight uptick in abnormal heart rhythms in the mornings when he worked out, but there was one specific morning where it went haywire and he had about 30 percent of his total arrhythmias in one six-hour span. He checked the spreadsheet and recalled what he had done the night before – stayed out late for his birthday and probably had too much to drink and not enough water. He was dehydrated.
Reflecting on his experience, Drew is thankful for the experience and the opportunity to better understand his heart health.
“It’s done the two most important things – it has not only given me the green light to do things that I love doing but it has helped me understand what might not be good for my heart,” said Drew. “That information is invaluable.”
Since his heart monitoring adventure, Drew made a commitment to continuing his healthy lifestyle. He and his cardiologist agreed he is able to continue doing what he was doing – finding joy in his new marriage, living life to the fullest and competing his heart out with a new mindset of making sure he listens to what his body needs, including hydration.