Heidi Dohse: From hospital bed back to racing bike with wearables -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

Heidi Dohse: From hospital bed back to racing bike with wearables

Interview with Heidi Dohse, Founder of Tour de Heart, Athlete, Manager Google Cloud Platform

Photo: Heidi Dohse

Heidi Dohse; © beta-web/Stöter

Sometimes, your situation seems hopeless and you just have to deal with it. Or so it seems at least. What can one do who chooses swimming instead of sinking? One example is Google-Manager Heidi Dohse who resorts to wearables to lead an active life as an athlete despite arrhythmia and pacemakers. She will talk about this at MEDICA MEDICINE+SPORTS CONFERENCE 2015.

"Empowering Patients to Live Amazing Lives" is the title of Dohse’s keynote lecture. Learn more about the wearables that empowered her in the interview with MEDICA-tradefair.com and at the conference's Wednesday.

Ms Dohse, you have heart arrhythmia, yet you are a professional athlete. How did wearable devices help you back into sports?

Heidi Dohse: When I was first diagnosed with a rare heart arrhythmia and then learned I would need to have a procedure to electrocute a part of my heart, leaving me 100 percent dependant on a pacemaker - It was very frightening. I was not sure if I would have my active life back. However, with the use of a wearable heart rate monitor I was able to watch my heart rate and know that I was safe. When I feel safe, I feel more confident and that allows me to do more. This is how I was able to get from my first 4 minute spin bike workout to racing bikes today!

When you worked with the medical device engineers from Boston Scientific, what did they learn from you concerning their devices?

Dohse: Boston Scientific has been a fantastic partner in my pursuit of more performance out of my pacemaker. I had my first pacemaker implanted in 1983 and my most recent, this is my 7th, pacemaker implanted in 2013. I have been able to provide feedback to Boston Scientific about how their devices have improved over 30 years. The heart beats have gotten smoother and more natural. I work with the team to determine what sensors and features to turn on in my current pacemaker in order to get the performance I need to be a competitive cyclist. I also share my device data with researchers so that they can learn how a pacemaker works with an athlete's heart.

Photo: Heidi Dohse on her bike

Heidi Dohse at the Dirty-Kanza race, Kansas, USA. It is a 200 miles (around 330 kilometers) distance race over gravel. Dohse finished in 15 hours; ©Kim Morris

With Tour de Heart, you aim to launch a clinical study about the impact of wearable devices on heart patients. Can you tell us more details: What is the goal, what questions are to be answered?

Dohse: Tour de Heart is part of the Health eHeart Alliance and the Health eheart Study. We have recently submitted a proposal, along with the Mood Network, for a clinical study to determine if internet-based cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) improves physical activity and patient-reported outcomes. Depression and anxiety are a significant issue for people diagnosed with heart disease. One of the major complaints of heart patients after heart procedures or surgery is feeling a loss of their "old" active life.

Wearable Devices will be an important part of the study as they will be used to track activity and provide real time feedback to the participant. The thought is that when people are active, they feel better emotionally and physically. This means that they are less likely to suffer from cardiac issues. The data from the wearable devices will be uploaded to the study to validate the increase in activity. My hope is that this is the path to getting their lives back.

Photo: Logo of Tour de Heart

Logo of Tour de Heart; ©Tour de Heart

Is there a piece of advice you would like to share with other heart patients?

Dohse: Do not become a victim of your heart issues. Start with small active goals and use a wearable heart rate monitor to change your thought process from my "heart is broken" to "my heart is working as intended". Then repeat that process until you are doing everything you have ever wanted!!!

What can we expect from your keynote speech at MEDICA MEDICINE + SPORTS CONFERENCE?

Dohse: My speech will cover my personal journey as a heart patient and how it has influenced my professional work at Google and my volunteer work with Tour de Heart.


A date to remember

You can meet Heidi Dohse in person at MEDICA MEDICINE+SPORTS CONFERENCE. Her keynote lecture "Empowering Patients to Live Amazing Lives" will take place in CCD South, 1. Floor, Room 2 at Wednesday, 18 November, 02.00 p.m.

More information about the session "Digital Systems in Recreational and Elite Sports"
Photo: Timo Roth

© Barbara From-

The interview was conducted by Timo Roth.