Spokane man says his Fitbit saved his life

Spokane man says his Fitbit saved his life
Whitworth professor Keith Lambert shows KXLY 4 the Fitbit that he says saved his life.

Keith Lambert is a Whitworth University professor who molds the next generations of teachers. He loves his job — and after the month he’s had, he’s never been happier to serve his student teachers.

“I get to go to work. That is a rare statement, but I get to go to work and I love what I do,” Keith told KXLY. “I get the opportunity to help teachers, new teachers, impact the lives of students. And that’s a joy. That’s a huge joy.”

You don’t have to spend much time around Keith to feel the joy he radiates when talking about teaching. But he’s human, and one of the biggest sources of joy in his life can also be a source of stress at times. That stress was starting to catch up with him at the end of September, while he was away on a business trip.

“[I] did start noticing, man I am not getting rest. I mean, I am feeling really tired. But didn’t think anything of it,” Keith said. “I just never felt good. And that week I really started looking at ‘what is going on?'”

So he turned to his Fitbit, a Christmas present from his wife a few years ago. Instead of keeping track of his steps, he moved to a different set of numbers — his heart rate. Keith realized he couldn’t get an average rate below about 85 beats per minute.

And when he came back to campus, the place that brings him the most joy, it got even worse.

“Came to work, was at a meeting, walked home,” Keith said. “I live a quarter of a mile from here, 165 beats per minute on a casual walk home in my loafers. And that’s when I realized something wasn’t right.”

Keith then went to his doctor, and he brought the data from his Fitbit. He went from that doctor to the emergency room, then to a cardiologist.

“I was probably at 15 hours of cardio heart rate a day,” Keith said. So my heart was working overtime.”

That’s when Keith’s questions were answered and his life was saved. Keith had a blockage in his LAD artery — also known as the widow-maker.

“It’s the one that, when it goes, it goes,” Keith said. “I really think the data I had, that I could take to every place I went, was the reason I probably got at least one more look.”

Doctors put a stent in. Keith told KXLY an hour and a half later, he was out of the hospital and back home. Now, about a month later, he’s back to work full time.

He’s back with his students and his family — he’s here — all because he saw his doctor. The only reason he saw his doctor, he says, was because his Fitbit told him something was off. Otherwise, he would’ve ignored it.

“I realize that waiting probably would’ve taken my life,” Keith said.

Dr. Ian Riddock, a cardiologist who wasn’t involved in Keith’s treatment, says this is a perfect example of just how helpful this technology can be to doctors and patients.

“If they can bring that kind of information to me, then it helps me not overtreat and not undertreat,” Riddock said.

But Riddock told KXLY you have to be careful not to read into everything these days. Riddock said you have to take into account your initial health and family history.

For Keith though, he’s reading this experience as a second chance — one he didn’t even know he needed until a few weeks ago. This second chance has shown him just how loved he is.

“We only get one crack at this life and so many spins around the world and we need to take better care of each other. I mean, we really do,” Keith said.

And this second chance has shown him just how much joy he has to offer the world.

“I think anytime you are faced with the realness that this could be it, or that there may not be a tomorrow… When you get a tomorrow, that’s a blessing,” Keith said. “And so you take it for that.”

Get your weather forecast from people that actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.