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Life-Saving Smart Vest Made By Pittsburgh Company

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- You've heard of smartphones, but how about smart clothes?

Jean McCue, of Trafford, went to bed, but morning may not have come for her that night.

"I went to sleep one night, and went into, I guess, fibrillation," said McCue. "My heart rate went up to 265."

McCue's heart was enlarged and weak from a viral infection, and the larger, bottom pumping chambers were quivering rapidly, a rhythm called ventricular fibrillation. Within minutes, it can kill you.

But McCue was wearing a jacket with electrodes called the Life Vest, an FDA-approved device made by a Pittsburgh company.

It detected the potentially deadly rhythm, and gave her a shock. It sounded a warning and advised her to get to the hospital as soon as possible.

"It gave me the time, because I was staying home alone," said McCue.

The life vest, which came out about a decade ago, is for people at risk of sudden cardiac death from poorly pumping hearts due to blocked vessels, valve disease or damaged heart muscle.

It can bridge the few months a patient has to wait for a surgically-implanted defibrillator.

"There's a group of people that will actually recover, and they don't need a defibrillator," said Dr. Kirk Musselman, of Tri-County Cardiology.

Dr. Musselman prescribes the Life Vest to four or five patients a year. In the 10 years he's used it; only three got better and didn't need an implanted device.

It can be bulky, especially at night, and it needs to be recharged daily.

"It's only as good and effective as how often somebody can keep it on. So, certainly there are limitations, for example, when somebody needs to take a shower or something like that," said Dr. Musselman.

For McCue, the inconvenience is worth it.

"I felt more secure that I would have something there that could monitor my heart rate," McCue said. "With me, it saved my life."

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