Founder and CEO of CardioThrive, Shelley Savage has dedicated her career to saving lives. Her patented PocketDefib™, has the potential to dramatically reduce the number of deaths caused by Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) all over the world.  

Every day, over 1,000 people die of SCA in the United States alone, and all over the world it remains one of the leading causes of sudden death. Shelley Savage, founder and CEO of CardioThrive, is on a mission to make portable defibrillators so ubiquitous that SCA will become a routinely survivable event. The prolific inventor and innovator has now been named by Business Worldwide Magazine as ‘Healthcare Technology CEO of the Year – USA’ and ‘Visionary CEO of the Year – USA’ in the 2023 Global Corporate Excellence Awards. 

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

SCA is the abrupt loss of heart function in a person who may or may not have been previously diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. Because it’s often completely unexpected, SCA often results in death if victims are not immediately given a therapeutic shock delivered by a defibrillator. 

For those at risk of SCA, there is currently no ultraportable personal device available to save lives

With over seven million people dying of SCA every year, doctors want Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) to be available everywhere. But even with a rise in defibs in public spaces all over the world, survival rates outside of hospitals remain alarmingly low — just 1% of people who have heart attacks in public make it. But it’s not just down to a lack of equipment. Untrained bystanders hesitate to use public defibrillators due to a combination of lack of training, low confidence and fear of hurting the patient. Many of those who want to help panic with the severity of the situation, freezing like rabbits in the headlights and wasting precious time as they try to work out what to do next, or wait for someone else to call an ambulance. 

It’s clear that no matter how much life-saving equipment is available, it’s virtually usually useless if the average person doesn’t know how to use it or lacks confidence under pressure. Shelley Savage has made it her life’s work to develop a user-friendly, portable handheld device that can be easily deployed, delivering a full-strength lifesaving shock at 140 joules of energy in under 20 seconds.

Removing barriers and saving lives

CardioThrive’s PocketDefib™ AED requires no assembly and is so easy and intuitive that it can be used by virtually anyone, with no prior training. Shelley was also keen to remove the cost barrier to consumers, so anyone who wants to carry one will be able to do so affordably, vastly increasing the number of AEDs in circulation and dramatically improving survival statistics. In the United States, there are approximately 2.6 million wall mounted AEDs in public spaces, but the actual need is closer to 29 million. By empowering members of the public to carry their own defibrillators around with them, all the panic and uncertainty associated with using complex medical machinery in a life-or-death situation has the potential to be completely eliminated.

Measuring only 5”X 3”X 1 ½”, (slightly thicker than 2 iPhones stacked together) the device is small and easy to carry. All users have to do is unwrap the packaging, pull the paddles apart, and apply them firmly to the victim’s chest. The machine senses the arrhythmia and delivers therapeutic shocks in regular intervals until it recognises that the heart has returned to normal sinus rhythm. 

A groundbreaking, one-of-a-kind device 

There is no other AED on the market that has been made in this way; easily deployed by anyone, anywhere, at any time. This is a piece of equipment that clearly has the potential to change the world,  but since the advent of the COVID pandemic, Shelley and her team at CardioThrive struggled to secure the funding necessary to bring the PocketDefib™ to market. Despite many investors expressing their interest, finalising a close of escrow on funding was a huge challenge. Because these potential investors had already funded other companies months before, they felt that available funds should be used to keep their previous investments afloat rather than bringing new investments to their portfolios. Early development stage companies similar to CardioThrive were struggling to stay alive when the world shut down. The impact was severe and most did not survive. 

Creative problem solving in the wake of COVID

This impact of COVID on businesses like CardioThrive is even more pertinent because the pandemic also led to more instances of Sudden Cardiac Arrest and an increase in associated deaths. During lockdown, overall SCA rates were consistently higher, survival outcomes were consistently lower, with exaggerated effects during COVID infection peaks. 

As the world continued to fall apart and without sufficient funding to continue forward, CardioThrive also faced extinction. At this point, Shelley had to get creative. All that was needed at the time was enough funding to complete the fully operational working prototypes needed to submit CardioThrive’s life-saving device to the American and European Regulatory bodies for approval. At the last phase before commercialization, with non-existent funding, it was time to think out of the box and find a different solution. Having invested so much time, energy and dedication to the project Shelley was not about to give up, so she found a way to complete the work without money. It took a few months, but she found a very talented engineering firm who was excited about the project and willing to do the work in exchange for equity in the Company. By staying focused on the goal — saving millions of lives all over the world — they found a solution that worked for everyone.

This new partnership and gear change enabled Shelley and her team to keep advancing the development of the device and accomplish the tasks necessary to move towards regulatory approval and commercialisation. Shelley’s dedication is clear, as is her creative approach to problem solving:  “It proves that if your focus, passion and commitment is there, things will manifest right on time and you will always find a way to make things work.”

To follow CardioThrive’s journey and be among the first to hear about the progress of the PocketDefib™ AED , visit the company’s website at