Episode Four – The Heart of a Ballerina

Discover how data storage innovations have contributed to advances in heart disease treatments.

Lindsay Davis’ childhood was consumed with dancing. The aspiring ballerina had her sights set on attending Julliard. After that, the sky was the limit. But then everything changed. In this episode of Technology Powers X, we explore how:

  • Lindsay Davis searched for treatments to address her life-changing heart condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Engineers designed new data storage technologies which broke ground in performance and flexibility
  • Boston Scientific developed new solutions to improve the lives of patients with heart conditions
  • New technology and medical innovation led to treatments that have allowed Lindsay to get back to participating in the things she loves and spend time with family – without having to worry about her health

Additional Resources

Dell Solutions with Intel®‎

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

— Arthur C. Clarke - author, futurist

Guest List

  • Lindsey Davis Heart Health Advocate, Model, Actress, Former Miss Ohio
  • Devon Reed Senior Director, Data Storage Product Management, Dell Technologies
  • Steve Kuovo Technology Architect, Core Technology Services Group, Boston Scientific Corporation
  • Caitlin Gordon Vice President, Data Storage and Protection Product Marketing, Dell Technologies

Danielle Applestone: On a busy New York sidewalk, Lindsay Davis’ brisk, confident pace suddenly becomes slow and tentative. Something is very wrong as buildings and people swirl and fade. She collapses in the middle of the street. Within minutes, she’s on her way to an emergency room. At that moment, 190 miles away in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, Devon Reed and his teammates are fixed on whiteboards. They’re architecting the foundation of PowerStore, a whole new midrange storage system. No one knows it, but those two scenes will soon converge.

I’m Danielle Applestone, engineer, entrepreneur. This is a series about unlikely intersections between revolutionary new tech and the human stories that it helped shape. Your listening to Technology Powers X, an original podcast from Dell Technologies. In this episode, technology powers the heart of a ballerina.

This story begins years before Lindsay Davis collapsed on that New York street. Most of her first 17 years were consumed with dancing. The aspiring ballerina had her sights set on Julliard. After that the sky was the limit, but then everything changed.

Lindsay Davis: When I was 17, I collapsed after dance practice and it was discovered that I have a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. HCM is a genetic heart condition where the muscle becomes abnormally thick and it makes it harder to pump blood around your body, which can sometimes lead to very dangerous heart rhythms. Typically, HCM once it’s diagnosed and under proper treatment, it’s not really dangerous at all. But the danger lies in the undiagnosed, the people that are highly active. Most commonly athletes, it’s the condition you’ll hear about a lot on the news where an athlete will just drop dead.

Danielle Applestone: Lindsay’s lifelong dream of dancing was over. That level of athleticism was simply too risky. For the model, actress and former Miss Ohio, the immediate task was to adapt her life to this new reality. Following treatment with beta blockers and diuretics, which helped with her body’s fluid overload, she collapsed again. That’s when she opted for surgery. Lindsay received an ICD or implantable cardioverter defibrillator.

Lindsay Davis: An ICD is essentially a defibrillator that’s implanted inside of you. There’s a pulse generator that contains a battery and a computer. And then there are wires that are called leads. They thread the leads into your heart, and it attaches to the inside of your heart with a really tiny corkscrew. And that monitors your heart for abnormal heart rhythms. And if you experience one, it sends an electrical impulse and corrects that arrhythmia.

Danielle Applestone: Nine years later, on that New York street, a malfunction in her ICD would force Lindsay’s treatment in a new direction. Meanwhile, in that Dell Technologies facility, the engineers designing PowerStore discussed what seemed like conflicting needs in the midrange storage market.

Devon Reed: What we found through extensive research and knowledge of this market, really two major problems that we’re setting out to tackle. And really they are conflicting trends in the marketplace.

Danielle Applestone: Devon Reed is Senior Director of Product Management for the Dell Technologies midrange and entry storage business unit.

Devon Reed: There’s a data problem, and there’s just an avalanche of data being created in the data center and all these different locations. And the current solutions in the market have been working on this problem for decades. Working on high availability, serviceability, driving the cost of the storage down. We also found this conflicting and emerging trend that customers were concerned about really driving operational simplicity and driving their operational costs down too. And none of the solutions in the market really were addressing both of these problems.

Danielle Apples: So there it was. On one hand, a system that can handle growing massive amounts of data. On the other, make it cost effective and simpler to operate. The Dell EMC PowerStore team made a decision. They would invent an entirely new system from the ground up.

Devon Reed: Our mantra was we have to innovate everywhere. We have to innovate not only on the data side, but on the operational simplicity side. So that became something that permeated through the organization. Innovate everywhere, regardless of whether it was on the parity stack or the RAID stack or the graphical user interface or through the APIs, you name it. There was innovation everywhere in this product set.

Danielle Applestone: When Apollo 13 malfunctioned a half century ago, the cause was a wiring problem that existed long before launch. Similarly, the malfunction that caused Lindsay Davis’ collapsed on that New York city street resulted from a wiring problem that existed well before she took that walk.

Lindsay Davis: Kind of pinpointed, breaking my lead. I was carrying a suitcase that was larger than I was. And I think my arm pulled back in a way that it shouldn’t have and a week or two later is when I had the episode in New York city. So yeah, it’s not super common, but it does happen. They took me to the emergency room and soon after it was determined that I had fractured a lead for my ICD. The lead is essentially the wire. It lives in my heart. So when you have a fractured lead, it can pick up additional noise that can be interpreted as an abnormal heart rhythm, which is what happened to me. My device thought I was having a dangerous episode and it tried to save my life by shocking my heart.

Danielle Applestone: Lindsay Davis would need to find a new way to keep her heart beating safely. So she hit the books, so to speak. Before long, she came across a new device, an SICD. S for subcutaneous, meaning under the skin. Unlike her previous device, the SICD did not require leads going right to the heart, but under the skin on her chest, near the heart. It was less invasive. The surgery wasn’t as hard and over time, the device is easier to swap out for an upgrade. The more she researched and consulted with her medical team, the more Lindsay Davis knew this was what she wanted, which led her here, to Boston Scientific.

Steve Kouvo: Boston Scientific Corporation is a company who’s dedicated to transforming the lives of patients around the world with innovative medical solutions.

Danielle Applestone: Steven Kouvo is a technology architect with the core technology services group within Boston Scientific Corporation.

Steve Kouvo: Our brand promises advancing science for life. We have over 13,000 products and we treated over 30 million patients every year.

Danielle Applestone: Boston Scientific, mingles great scientific minds with new technologies and massive amounts of data. Together, year after year, they stake out extraordinary new frontiers across vast areas of medicine.

Steve Kouvo:  Abnormal heartbeat, asthma, cancer, chronic pain, digestive and nutrition issues, heart and vascular issues, kidney stones, pain management, men’s health, women’s health.

Danielle Applestone: But with its rapid growth, Boston Scientific faced growing data challenges. It’s teams had built a database that offers tools to help patients better manage their own health. But that led to data being stored across a conglomeration of disparate systems. In time, managing and accessing data across these systems became increasingly expensive and time consuming. Boston Scientific needed ways to manage the growing changing data infrastructure that was drawing time and resources away from helping patients like Lindsay. And this is why Boston Scientific signed up as a beta tester for the new PowerStore technology. To the team at Dell Technologies, it was a familiar tale.

Caitlin Gordon: Five years ago. I’d say we spent most of our time talking about speeds and feeds and IOPS and latency and data reduction.

Danielle Applestone: Caitlin Gordon is VP of Storage and Data Protection Product Marketing at Dell Technologies.

Caitlin Gordon: Very little time is spent on that today. It’s certainly important and it’s an expectation that a platform meets that. But a lot more time is spent on how are you going to help me change the way I operate my data center? How are you going to help fit into my initiatives to have an autonomous data center? Self-service IT? Really be able to help my business evolve and transform?

Danielle Applestone: The question was never far from the minds of Devon Reed and the team as they mastered a balancing act between enhanced performance and reduced complexity.

Devon Reed: Really in order for us to hit not only the midrange price performance that is expected of our customers and the operational simplicity, we chose an architecture that really addressed both of those needs, and it really centers around what we internally call a resource balancer. And that’s really an artificial intelligence and machine learning capability that we built into the management infrastructure of the system. And what this enables customers to do is to have a cloud like experience for their scale up and scale out storage systems. We choose the best place to position volumes and file systems across the cluster. And we continuously monitor the behavior of the system over time and make recommendations to the customer, where to place these volumes to meet the customer’s SLAs and the best price performance that they can possibly get.

Danielle Applestone: Better still, resource balancing enabled team to design PowerStore for seamless expansion and upgrades.

Devon Reed: The key differentiator that we couldn’t do five years ago, and it’s really around the adaptability of the platform. The scale up and the scale out capabilities of the platform, the resource balancer in the artificial intelligence and machine learning engine that we built directly into the platform, we’ve extended our future proof loyalty program to include a new capability called Anytime Upgrades. What this really enables customers to do is stay modern with their software and hardware infrastructure. This allows customers to do infrastructure upgrades with no downtime, no migration, and allows them to leverage their existing purchases and capacity. And it allows them to do this upgrade at any time in their contract, and it doesn’t force them to do a renewal. So it’s the ultimate in flexibility from an investment protection program and is unparalleled in the marketplace.¹

Danielle Applestone: This upgradable scale up, scale out capability allows companies such as Boston Scientific to adapt as their business transforms. Steve Kouvo.

Steve Kouvo: A breakthrough technology, in the sense of something that’s come out that is not only a storage system, but there’s so many more capabilities to it where it’s clustered. So you can dynamically scale resources.

Danielle Applestone: In time, Devon Reed’s team expanded to more than 1,000 engineers and more than half a dozen countries worldwide. One way that sheer volume of cranial horsepower paid off was with the creation of AppsOn. Devon Reed.

Devon Reed: The AppsOn capability allows customers to run VMware, VM applications directly on the storage system. And we’re the only storage system in the market that allows customers to do this out of all of the midrange enterprise storage systems in the market.²

Danielle Applestone: That opens up whole new possibilities for midrange storage users, such as Boston Scientific. Steve Kouvo.

Steve Kouvo: We’re highly virtualized. We’re a very large VMware shop and with AppsOn and being able to deploy VMs within our PowerStore units and have those PowerStores integrate with our vCenters around the company is very exciting because it allows us to tie into supported infrastructure that we already have, and it gives us greater flexibility on where we could potentially move VMs. It seems as though we have abilities to potentially migrate data within the company between various sites, between these PowerStores. I mean, I think it allows great consolidation and also allows us to migrate data from critical sites to other sites if need be.

Danielle Applestone: Yet by using AppsOn as Caitlin Gordon notes, better, doesn’t have to mean bigger.

Caitlin Gordon: With AppsOn, you can have up to 70% smaller footprint for that infrastructure.³ For a companies like Boston Scientific, being able to support that small footprint, but not compromise on the architecture they’re using still get the great performance and efficiency, that enables them to spend no time on managing the infrastructure and all their time on innovating and researching and helping their customers with their health concerns.

Danielle Applestone: Including Lindsay Davis. Following the malfunction on the New York street, she had carried a portable life vest style defibrillator. Until she was cleared to receive that less invasive SICD from Boston Scientific, or as she puts it, the emergency room on her chest.

Lindsay Davis: It has a pulse generator box, and it’s a little bit smaller than a deck of cards. It rests just under your skin and on top of my ribcage, just below my armpit. So you don’t really see it, if my arm is down. Then there’s a wire, the lead, that’s attached to it that wraps around my chest and goes up and rests on my breastbone. This lead acts as the “defibrillator paddle” and the pulse generator acts as the other paddle. So my heart is between the paddles, but they don’t touch it. This is a matter of life or death for me. So I’m able to carry around this emergency room in my chest at all times.

Danielle Applestone: As if to prove her heart works just fine, thank you, Lindsay Davis championed what would be called Lindsay’s Law in Ohio. It creates protocols to inform and educate students, parents and coaches about the nature and warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest. Lindsay sites studies that found 72% of kids who died from the same condition she has reported symptoms similar to hers. Yet in most cases, no one suspected a heart condition. After receiving her SICD, Lindsay wrote Boston Scientific. Soon after, our two stories of Lindsay and of storage technology converged.

Lindsay Davis: They ended up inviting me to their headquarters and somehow tracked down every single person who had a hand in creating and assembling every component of the exact device that’s in my chest. They each wore a ribbon so I could identify them. And they were constantly coming up to me, giving me hugs, asking me about my life. It was such a moving day that I should have warned waterproof mascara for. It’s a uniquely humbling experience to meet people and know that their life’s mission is to make me more able to live my best life, more able to do what I want to do. And they do it if not, for any reason, other than their blind pursuit of goodness and perfection. And I’m just in absolute awe of them.

Danielle Applestone: For every success story like Lindsay’s, there’s an army of brilliant women and men at Boston Scientific, who first imagined it. And countless members of Dell Technologies who take no small pride in helping power that work and who imagined fresh successes as it launches PowerStore, the next generation storage technology. They’re enabling customers like Boston Scientific to focus more on delivering medical innovations by leveraging the adaptability, flexibility and simplicity of PowerStore. Lindsay Davis puts it best.

Lindsay Davis: Whenever I reflect on technology and specifically the technology that allows me to live a normal life, doing the things I love and spending time with the people closest to me without having to constantly worry about my health. It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from Arthur Clarke. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And for me, this particularly resonates.

Danielle Applestone: This is Technology Powers X, an original podcast from Dell Technologies. For more information on Dell EMC PowerStore, a scalable storage solution that eliminates traditional trade offs and performance, scalability and storage efficiency, go to DellTechnologies.com/TechnologyPowersX. You can read the transcript, learn more about our speakers and check out some great links. I’m Danielle Applestone. Thank you for listening.


¹ Based on Dell analysis, April 2020, using publicly available data to compare the highest available program/subscription offers for controller upgrades. Requires purchase of minimum 3-year ProSupport Plus with Anytime Upgrade Select or Standard add-on option at point of sale to qualify.

² Based on Dell analysis of publicly available information on current solutions from mainstream storage vendors, April 2020. ESXi Hypervisor is available with PowerStore X models.

³ Based on Dell analysis of PowerStore AppsON workload deployment vs. the same workload deployed on an external host. Actual results may vary based on configuration and workload.

About the Author: Evan Morrison

Evan has a passion for using digital mediums to showcase the impact that technology can have across the globe. While working at Dell Technologies, Evan has produced content and web experiences across various lines of business and continues to explore new ways to tell these amazing stories. Evan is a graduate of Syracuse University and currently lives in Burlington, Vermont.