‘Allergies’ Are Actually An ER Emergency: David’s Story

Heart health
Success Stories
July 14, 2023

“Last week this device — my Withings blood pressure monitor — saved my life.” —David Alexander, in a video to Withings

Reverend David Alexander, pictured, spent 17 years in Oregon before moving to Atlanta in 2019 with his wife and 2 sons. He has dedicated his life to service for 47 years—as a pastor, husband, father, and community activist. A life of service is a busy life, one which he thrived in, but it came with extra challenges in 2020, when the pandemic lockdowns happened.

At a time when the physical world shut down and life went online, many people were scaling back, but not Alexander. In fact, he and the other ministers he knew found themselves working harder trying to keep people connected during this period of isolation, and he found himself tethered to his work even more than before.

An unexpected detour on the path to better health

Flash forward to 2023. The world is back, but the habits forged in the pandemic needed to be changed. Alexander and his wife were taking a walk together, discussing New Year’s resolutions and how they should—and would—both like to “get on the health wagon” and embark on a new workout/wellness plan.

Other than headaches, which he chalked up to allergies, Alexander had no health complaints. But as he remembered that he had slightly elevated blood pressure the last time he went to the doctor, and he had missed two yearly physicals due to the pandemic, he decided to use his Withings blood pressure monitor to check his numbers before starting his new regimen.

“In the back of my mind I had this intuition, it was like I probably do need to be on some kind of blood pressure medication even though I felt fine. Also I had the last business trip for this big contract that I was doing for a couple of years and the conclusion of all that happening at a conference in Dallas. And so literally the day before I got on the plane, I grabbed my device… and the blood pressure reading was really high.”

Numbers that gave his doctor high anxiety

Hypertensive crisis detected and shown in the Withings app

In fact, the reading was so high that he actually thought his blood pressure monitor must be broken, or maybe needed a software update. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. In fact, Alexander was actually in hypertensive crisis. 

Alexander contacted his doctor alerting him to his blood pressure numbers, in hopes that his doctor could call in a prescription for him to pick up at a pharmacy in Dallas. Prescribing those medications requires an in-person appointment so it wasn’t possible, and since his numbers were so alarming, the doctor urged him to get an EKG. Luckily, he was able to get one at a walk-in clinic in Dallas.

After an even higher blood pressure reading he was told, “You must have angels with you because I don’t know why you’re here with these numbers” and was promptly sent to the ER where he was admitted.

It took three different methods over the course of a few days to get his blood pressure to a place where it felt safe to discharge him. Alexander and his family had the added stress of going through all of this without being able to see each other as they were still in Atlanta. Thankfully after he was discharged he was able to head straight home to his family, meet with his doctor, and continue his treatment and care for his high blood pressure.

When a headache is more than a headache

Oh, the power of hindsight. When Alexander looks back on all of this, he can see pretty clearly that pandemic stress and the less active lifestyle that came with it did not serve him well. He had been experiencing headaches for quite some time, but dismissed them as a result of allergies and acclimating to a new region and environment. Now it’s clear that it was due to his high blood pressure.

Being a man of service, it’s Alexander’s nature to put others before himself. “It was so easy for me to care about my family and work and everything else and ignore myself. But again, if I had been tracking that other data, I would have put two and two together. The headaches plus the numbers are not where they’re supposed to be. I would have seen that maybe this is not just allergies.”

Empowering your health by tracking your data

Alexander feels incredibly lucky to have caught this before it escalated into something even more serious. With all of the connected devices out there, he emphasized how easy it is for people to get a snapshot of their health, and stay on top of their wellness. “It’s so easy to pay attention and get some data that we can then be more informed about our health and that’s really important.”

Now Alexander diligently tracks his health data, and through his doctor’s treatment, healthy lifestyle changes, and the loving support of his family he’s in a much better place with his blood pressure and has also been relieved of those nasty headaches.

“The lesson for me is I have to take care of myself and be available to take care of other people to do this work and to be there for my kids above anything else. If I’m not healthy, then I’m not of any use in any other way.”

Thank you to David for sharing his story. Learn more about the importance of monitoring and tracking your blood pressure on the Health Insights: Hypertension page.