The Apple Watch’s now-axed blood oxygen features has been credited for saving a woman’s life when she became unresponsive during a flight.
The unnamed British woman, 70, was experiencing shortness of breath on a flight from the UK to Italy on January 9, leading attendants to seek a doctor on board to assist in the emergency.
Fellow passenger and National Health Service (NHS) doctor, Rashid Riaz, came to her aid and asked the flight crew if they had an Apple Watch to monitor the woman’s vitals.
The blood oxygen feature measure the percentage of oxygen your red blood cells carry from your lungs to the rest of the body and low levels are associated with breathing issues.
Riaz said the Apple Watch helped him determine the woman low oxygen saturation, allowing him to take further steps to maintain levels until the plane safely landed.
There have numerous cases of how the Apple Watch saved people’s lives, but the blood oxygen monitor has been pulled from new models amid a patent infringement lawsuit.
Apple’s blood-oxygen feature helped a doctor save a woman’s life on a Ryanair flight to Italy
Apple was forced to drop the feature or be banned from selling the smartwatches last week a federal court rejected Apple’s appeal to continue the pause.
The move is part of an ongoing court case with biotech startup Masimo that accused the tech giant of entering discussions with it for a potential partnership only to steal the biotech startup’s idea and poach some of its engineers to implement it.
While the blood oxygen feature has been disabled in new Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra modes, it still operates in units previously purchased.
The January flight was headed for Verona, Italy from Birmingham, UK when the woman began experiencing health issues while traveling with her husband.
Riaz immediately stepped in to help after being told a doctor was needed and knew the Apple Watch with the blood oxygen sensor was the best tool on the plane.
‘The Apple Watch helped me find out the patient had low oxygen saturation,’ Riaz told BBC.
‘I used a lot of my own learning during this flight on how to use the gadget,’ he added.
Riaz, who is an internal medicine specialist at Hereford County Hospital in the UK, used the app to help him stabilize her oxygen levels until the plane landed in Italy.
The woman immediately received medical assistance and is expected to make a full recovery, according to The New York Post.
Apple was forced to disable its blood-oxygen feature amid legal battles with a medical technology company, Masimo
The blood oxygen app uses red and green light sensors to shine onto the blood vessels in the wearer’s wrist and measures how much light bounces back.
Because oxygenated and deoxygenated blood absorbs red and green light differently, the light bouncing back to the watch will determine the color of the person’s blood.
Bright red means the blood is oxygenated while dark red blood means it has less oxygen – typical oxygen levels are between 95 and 100 percent.
Apple said that ‘measurements taken with the blood oxygen app are not intended for medical use,’ and were only designed for fitness and wellness.
There have numerous cases of how the Apple Watch saved people’s lives, but the blood oxygen monitor has been pulled from new models amid a patent infringement lawsuit
While the feature saved the day on the flight, it is no longer available in new Apple Watches after the US international Trade Commission sided with Masimo’s claims that Apple infringed on its patent for the blood-oxygen monitoring technology.
Apple said Masimo’s claims were false and said the blood-oxygen app, also known as a pulse oximeter, works well for users and can be used to save lives.
The incident aboard the Ryanair flight occurred on Jan. 9, before Apple discontinued the blood-oxygen feature in the U.S., but for now, it still works for people who already own older Apple Watch models.
Since the court’s ruling only applies to Apple Watches sold in the U.S., the Blood Oxygen app is still available on models sold abroad.
News of the Apple Watch’s role in saving the woman’s life comes only a week after Masimo CEO Joe Kiani told Bloomberg: ‘Apple is masquerading what they are offering to consumers as a reliable, medical pulse oximeter, even though it is not.’
He continued: ‘I really feel wholeheartedly that consumers are better off without it.’
However, speaking about the importance of smartwatch sensors, Riaz told BBC: ‘It is a lesson in how we can improve in-flight journeys [with] this sort of emergency [via] a basic gadget which nowadays is easily available.’
Dailymail.com has reached out to Apple, Masimo, and Ryanair for comment.