Embrace Watch by Empatica – One Week Review

Many of you may have heard of wearable technology to aid those who suffer from Epilepsy and Seizure disorders. While there are a few types out there, I have done some research and decided to settle on the Embrace Watch by Empatica. As some of you may know, I suffer from tonic-clonic, nocturnal, and myoclonic seizures that come without warning. My tonic-clonics can last quite a bit of time and leave me disoriented for upwards to an hour. Being a mother, student, and healthcare worker – I felt this would be my best option.

The Embrace Watch is a smart watch that monitors the nervous system, sleep cycles and quality of sleep, and activity levels. Best part is that it can sense when a seizure occurs when convulsions last over 10 seconds, mark it, and notify a caregiver(s) of your choice. If the watch so happens to miss a seizure or you have one of a non-convulsing type, you can mark when the seizure occurred in your dairy and see what was going on around that time frame. While yes, this is mainly aimed at tonic-clonic/grand mal seizures, it can serve some benefits to other types. The watch includes an LED clock as well that uses a light system to determine the time. It connects to a phone by Bluetooth and is said to transmit data by Wifi or cellular data services. This device charges with the use of a USB port connected to the watches docking station.

How exactly does the watch sense the seizures/activity/sleep? By using sensors which include electrodermal activity sensor, peripheral temperature sensor, 3-axis accelerometer, and gyroscope. This technology is still relatively “new” for the watch and consumer use, bare that in mind. It requires the use of two apps: the Alert App and the Mate App. Do note that if you are pregnant, you cannot use the alert function – it does not specify as to why exactly, but I imagine our body already has a lot going on and is still considered to be in trail mode. The Mate App is still functional for use and the Alert App will still track your data to transmit it over.

 

__________________________________________________________________

One Week Review

When I was researching the watch, I noticed a lot of reviews were quite outdated or did not offer any type of follow up. So, here I am doing a one week review and fully anticipate doing a one month review. Since I already invested into the watch for better or for worse, I do another review as well once I meet my little one. Let us start off with the positives.

Pros

I was amazed with how quick shipping was. From time of payment to actual delivery was a week – which is great. Do keep in mind I do live in the United States and so happen to live within the same state; I might have cheated a little. Although, they do a wonderful job of updating you along the way of your shipping status and send you emails so you can learn more about the watch as you wait. I thought this was an awesome idea and kept you anticipating the arrival.

Once the Embrace Watch arrived, I was very pleased upon opening it. Came in a very sturdy package, the watch was beautiful and slick, you would never guess off hand it was used as a medical device (note: not officially calssified as a medical device yet though. Still in trial phases). Upon wearing the watch, I felt that it was quite comfortable – the strap is of a stretchy fabric material that can expand quite big and shrink quite small (good for my child-like wrists).  Charging the watch was quite simple – pinch open the port, place the watch in the port with hearts facing the same direction, connect the USB cable to a USB port (I used my laptop). Initial charging did take a bit – although, my computer decided to not function so I cannot give you an accurate time lapse; but I would expect this to occur. Charging afterwards did not take nearly as long – but I will get into that more later. It connected to blue tooth fine, I had decided I would run the watch off cellular data initially, and the phone I am using is an Iphone 6 with IOS 10.3.1.

Both the Alert App and Mate App was easy to fine, downloaded fine, and connected to the watch fine – very easy set-up process. My Alert App did need a Firm Ware update, so please check into that after downloading.  Also, if there are any issues, there is a wonderful and pleasant Facebook group for Embrace Watch Owners – they are extremely helpful and nice and one person I could never thank enough.

I would also like to add; their customer support has been absolutely lovely and do get back to you in a kind and effective manner. I feel that they truly do care and are trying their best. It is not automated in tone like most places.

__________________________________________________________________

The Cons with Daily updates

May 7th – After the arrival

So, first things first – the watch did not record and has still not put in information for May 6th, when I started wearing the watch. I chalked this up to maybe I did not wear it enough within 24 hours. I turned to the Facebook group and everyone said it should have showed – still nothing. Well, that is just a minor setback, was not overly surprised. When I decided to charge my battery – yes it needs to be charged daily, this to me is understandable and easy to work around – it was in the teens and once the watch and Alert App indicated it was full charged, I put watch back on. To my surprise, I went to check the Alert App again it dropped to 89%…errm. It still lasted quite a while at least, I just did not understand as to why the sudden drop.

Now I went to recheck my Mate App to see today’s data (remember I have been wearing it since the day before) and nothing came up. I actually could not even get into the Mate app at times. Well, okay, perhaps it was something I was doing wrong or connection issue. I followed what the site said to do: uninstall and reinstall the app, logged in and out of the app, restarted my phone, and I have not lost any Bluetooth connectivity, but deiced to reconnect that too. Nothing worked. The Alert App did not have any pending downloads. I decided to go somewhere with Wifi, as my last hope, and see if that helped – and it sure did. All my data from May 7th showed, although as days progressed – I could not use my cellular data/LTE network AT ALL to transmit data or access the Mate App. I ended up having to turn my partner’s cellphone into a hotspot. When I cannot access Wifi, I will not have data showing or access to the Mate App. Luckily, data does store and save on the watch until I can access Wifi.

May 8th

The watch started recording rest times that did not occur. I can tell you for a fact, because I was driving during this time, I was awake from 7:00-8:00 am – it even recorded me walking to my car as activity that same morning during the rest time. I am assuming if you do not move enough, it registers as rest. So now I am questioning the actual accuracy of the watch. It is accurate most of the time – I will not take away from that, but this was quite confusing. Later that day LED clock COMPLETELY stopped working. I attempted to clean the watch according to the website – remind you I only had the watch for 3 days, had not spilt anything, got it wet, dirty, banged it, or dropped it. This was then met by the watch not charging now. I followed the directions and did so the same way as I had done the last two days – nothing. LED clock came on briefly when I tried getting it to charge, but nothing afterwards. After some finagling and frustration, the watch decided to charge – this time only up until 60% before it completely stopped again.

May 10th

Still having issues with false reading rest/sleep. I felt like I made sure to keep that wrist and arm active every now and then, it still recorded it as sleep. I can see this becoming an issue with school and reading; on the 9th it did record a period of time when I was reading as sleep. Today the LED clock started working again (huzzah)! I am curious if it was a temporary glitch in the system. Also, my charger actually worked last night too – curious if it was interrelated as well. I have been in touch with customer support this entire time – sending them my concerns and screenshots when needed. They have been  lovely about everything.

May 11th

Charger decided to not work again. Got a notification that my battery was low, I let it drain this time and it would not charge. I tried everything that I could to get it to work – nothing.

About 30 minutes later, charger decided to work (huzzah!)

Later that evening, there was an update related for the Alert App – main thing about it was now there is a “Rest Mode.” The cool thing about this is that it has a higher sensitivity for seizure detection; so you would place this mode on when you are watching TV or sleeping. “Night mode” got renamed to “Lights and Vibrations” to avoid any confusion with “Rest Mode.” Another change, the batter life is no longer displayed in percent – rather with displaying full, high, medium, low, or charge now. They do have a guide to tell you about how many hours you have left – not really a huge fan, preferred the percentage better. This is just my preference and not any fault of the watch or company

May 12th

Well today I had a 3-hour glucose test; it would be nice if the watch could detect seizures for pregnancy. I had a few myoclonic jerks due to my blood sugar being low and all I did was sleep today. Curious if anything happened in my sleep since I am not normally like this, not even with my last 3-hour glucose test, but alas the watch is not suitable for pregnancy. Ah well.

I think the update was a huge help, although while it did not really state updating anything sensitivity wise other than seizure detection, it was way more accurate with my sleep cycles and activity – super pleased by this. Also, no issues at all with the charger today! Definitely restored my faith in the watch.

(The updated version on left – right: older version)

__________________________________________________________________

Final Thoughts for Week One

A little disappointed overall at first, was not expecting so many glitches/issues for the price. I do fully understand it is relatively new technology, but basic functions such as sleep/activity should not be a huge issue with the recording. Some issues resolved on their own such as the clock and charger, which is fine, but can be frustrating for some. It seems that after the new update, it became more accurate with activity and sleep levels, which is great. Definitely boosted my confidence for the watch’s future.

I was little bummed about finding out it will not alert seizures for those who are pregnant – I can see why in some respects, but sometimes this is when women have their most seizures. Luckily during this pregnancy my major ones stopped. I still proceeded to get the watch now so I could work through it for after delivery. I have seizures without fail right before and after pregnancy and things can get scary with a newborn.

I fully plan on doing a follow-up review in a month to inform those who are on the fence about the watch and following my experience. I fully believe that as time goes on, it will only get better. By the end of the week I saw it improve with just one update – I was impressed. Although to be fair, it also could of been chalked up to the watch learning my body as well. I will say this: do not knock it out of the park yet. While it may seem like a steep price for a piece that is still “new,” I do believe it will be worth the investment.

__________________________________________________________________

Are you thinking about owning your own Embrace watch? Leave a comment below followed by any questions you may have and I will try my best to answer them!

If you are looking into getting your own watch or finding out more, click here

Until next time!

Fireworks and Flickering Lights

Fireworks

This blog was originally written for Guy Fawkes Night/Bonfire Night which was celebrated November 5th in the U.K. (see the post here) The more I thought about it and searched around, the more I saw that it can be difficult to gather information on how to prepare for holidays that involve firework displays and flickering lights. Here is what you need to know before going out and celebrating.


Get packing!

                Before heading out to your festivities, make sure you have a few things handy such as:

  • A watch/charged phone with a clock
  • Your medication(s)/extra medication
  • Something to drink/snacks
  • Emergency medication
  • Insurance card and picture ID
  • Medical alert ID – if you do not have one, take an index card and write in big letter “Medical Alert” and on the back place your name, date of birth, medication(s), diagnosis, and emergency contact

It will also be beneficial to have a plan of action developed between you and whomever it is you are attending festivities with. This way, everyone will be on the same page and prepared if a situation occurred. You will also want to discuss how emergency medication should be administered and when to call an ambulance. What else may be beneficial, of course depending on the type of seizures associated with your Epilepsy, is preparing a med-pack/first aid kit. This can include items such as gloves, bandages, notebook and pen, hair tie, and anything else you may need specific to your seizure (find out about my med-pack here: http://thestorminsidemyhead.com/2016/09/epilepsy-med-pack/)


Let the Show Begin!

While firework displays can be absolutely captivating – it may send those with Epilepsy, especially Photosensitive Epilepsy, into a bit of a tizzy. Here are some quick tips to help reduce the chances of triggering a seizure:

  • Take your medication on time – things can get hectic when meeting up with friend and celebrating but be sure to set an alarm just in case so you remember to take your medication. This is your first defense against a seizure.
  • Get sleep before the event – you will want to make sure you get plenty of sleep, especially if you have a long night ahead. Lack of sleep get lower your seizure threshold and the more rest you can get the better.
  • Eat, drink, and be merry – Be sure to stay hydrated and get a proper meal in. This will help increase your seizure threshold and decrease the chance of a seizure occurrence.

←Now for the Finale→

  • Cover one eye – do you start to feel funny the colorful lights glisten? How about during the finale? This can be tough for those with Epilepsy but surprisingly, cover one eye can be beneficial in preventing a seizure. This reduced the amount of visual stimulus coming into the brain; therefore, the brain does not have to work as hard to stay calm.
  • Do not sit up close – that may sound like bummer but the further away you are, the less likely it will trigger a seizure due to the light being less intense as well as the flickering being reduced by the fireworks.
  • Polarized sunglasses – wearing sunglasses at night may sound silly but, this can actually help reduce your odds of a seizure – especially for those with Photosensitive Epilepsy. Now, they are probably going to be more of use during the day, but if you know the flickering of the fireworks or large bonfires will probably leave you feeling uneasy, go pick up a pair. If you are wondering what type of lenses, some research articles suggest blue lenses but again, this depends on the person.
  • Let someone else drive – it has been a long night, you watched a beautiful light show, and now it is time to call it night; well for some. On your way home, if you are able to drive – ask someone else to. This will not keep yourself safe, but others around you too. Seizures can strike at any time and is better to stay on the safe side. Do not be afraid to ask a friend.

Do not forget, at any point that you begin to feel an aura or a twitch – tell someone. Let someone know that you do not feel okay and get yourself to a safe area. If you know it will result in a tonic-clonic/convulsing type of seizure, get low to the ground and away from the waterfront if you are near one. Make sure you are not near any hard objects and that someone is with you and ready. If you are unsure what the resulting seizure may be, take the precaution and get low.


Are You Ready?

                While it may seem like a lot of work, your health and safety are worth it. No one wants to spend a holiday in the hospital while everyone else is out and about. Take care of yourself and follow these tips to ensure a safe time and wonderful time/


Do you have any tips and tricks you would like to share? Remember these tips can be used for multiple holidays that may involve:

  • Flickering lights/flashing lights
  • Fireworks
  • Late nights