I was hit hard by the death of Sheryl Sandburg’s husband, David Goldberg- which may seem strange, given that I don’t know either of them, but I have admired Sheryl as a woman, mother, and business person, and I have followed her writings and talks with interest ever since reading Lean In. When the details emerged about the incredibly tragic and freakish nature of the accident that killed her husband, my sense of empathy and grief deepened.
David Goldberg’s death hit doubly close to home because I have a sense of kinship with those who have been dealt a cruel blow by chance. I have been a hair’s breadth away from chance tragedy too.
When our twins were 13 months old, my husband suffered a sudden cardiac arrest (you can read about that here) and incredibly he, against the odds, lived. Without a doubt, during that crisis I was seconds away from being a widow. From losing the love of my life. Sheryl, with incredible elegance and grace, summed up what it is like to love and lose the person dearest to you in the world in, appropriately enough, a Facebook post on May 4th. We can all learn from her resilience, gratitude, and though I am only guessing here- her compassion for herself, in the face of this terrible tragedy.
After my husband, Tony, recovered from his cardiac arrest and was released from the hospital, he came home with a BMW in his chest. Okay, not really. But, he did come home with what’s essentially an incredibly expensive battery & jumper cables- known in fancy terms as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) that will immediately deliver a heart-starting and life-saving shock, should he ever have another cardiac arrest. Thankfully, he never has.
I’ll tell you- having that device in his chest was the thing that gave me the confidence to close my eyes and go to sleep on his first night home from the hospital. Not to mention, every night since then. I had to force myself to close my eyes and relax, though I recall laying a protective hand across his back- hoping that should something happen, it would telegraph to me, through my sleep, that there was an emergency. Sure, I woke up once and saved him- but could I really count on being that lucky a second time?
Which brings us to David Goldberg and what role technology could have played in saving his life. I think it’s likely that existing technology, some vital combination of software and the hardware- along the lines of an Apple Watch or a Microsoft Band could have sent an alert that something had gone awry- whether with his pulse, blood pressure, or body temperature- something. Anything. Someone could have gotten an alert and taken action.
As with Tony’s cardiac arrest, the most critical factor with David’s death appears to have been time. I was fortunate enough that I immediately recognized that something was horribly wrong and sprang into action- if I hadn’t? If I had slept through his cardiac arrest- Tony’s chance of survival would have been precisely zero. If David Goldberg’s accident had been witnessed- whether by a person or via a monitoring device, the outcome could have been radically different.
Side note: If you haven’t been trained in CPR- Do. It. Now. And if you have, it’s probably time to get re-certified.
My husband also wears a RoadID, which is just a small metal & rubber bracelet that has some basic personal information and states that he has an ICD. Enough to save a first responder or emergency personnel a few vital seconds. When straddling the line between life and death, minutes and even seconds can make all the difference. All that information could, again, be easily passed and contained within an alert or notification. A number of apps and devices already store and offer this information in emergencies.
So, could the <insert your favorite wearable device technology here> have saved David Goldberg? From a tech perspective? No doubt. So what’s next? Let’s make this happen, people!
As heart-breaking and tragic as David Goldberg’s death is, I think it will be an inflection point for the industry and look forward to what the tech community does in response. This event has revealed the mortality of Silicon Valley to its inhabitants- a group that seemed blissfully or arrogantly unaware of this fact until now.
It is a part of human nature to want to find or to create meaning from tragic circumstances and this event could prove to be a life-saving catalyst for the tech community.
Sheryl has already shown incredible personal courage and grace in devastating circumstances, and has further solidified her position as an individual to be admired. I hope the tech community will follow suit and apply its collective brainpower to the challenge of emergency identification and response.