GE Healthcare EKG designer finds own widowmaker blockage with device

A Richfield GE Healthcare worker designs devices meant to save lives. Wearing it led to his own life-saving diagnosis.

Matt Pemberton designs EKG systems, working with a small device that has had a big impact on his life.

"I’ve been in health care for 23 years, worked in a clinical setting," said Pemberton. "These help show if there is something wrong."

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The device has supported his life and also saved it.

"You can’t be the guy designs EKG systems and dies of a heart attack," said Pemberton. 

Pemberton was shoveling snow in 2020 when he felt a shortness of breath. He didn't think much of it until he felt it again.

"I thought, that's weird," said Pemberton. 

Pemberton then took a test on a hand-held device that takes an EKG in just 30 seconds, something he got in a swag bag from AliveCor, a company GE Healthcare has since partnered with.

"I found out I had 90% blockage in my widowmaker," said Pemberton. 

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The American Heart Association says if you have a heart attack in that vessel outside of the hospital, you have only a 12% chance of survival. Pemberton was lucky to catch it. He had open heart surgery on his 49th birthday.

"When I went to the hospital, everyone was surprised that I self-diagnosed my heart attack with this device," said Pemberton. 

The problem is, Pemberton only knew how to read the EKG because of his background. That's where the development of the partnership with GE Healthcare and AliveCor started. The team is now working on reaching the everyday person.

"It validates the work we are doing," said Ashutosh Banerjee, GE Healthcare.

Pemberton will walk in the American Heart Association walk Saturday, Sept. 24 in Milwaukee.