How breaking my leg gave me time to stop and think

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Today I'm incredibly excited to show off a project I've been working on, but first a quick back story.

Ray tracing of my ankle using set.health tech

I have been writing software since I was 10 years old, back then, I barely knew what I was doing, gluing together parts of different videogame websites I loved.

I do remember though the first moment my brain clicked and realized that programming was more than putting things together, but gives you the opportunity to build new things from the ground up. Since then, it was all about the product, building new things.

When the first iPhone was released, I was fascinated with the idea of building something that could be used by thousands of people. So I joined an open-source project to build videogames. I learned a lot! Computer graphics, teamwork, and how a game engine works under the hood, someone could say I got my CS "degree" during that time.

This allowed me to build and ship a couple of games, one of them very successful, I worked tirelessly polishing the gameplay, the design of every little aspect, adjusting the difficulty and the controls obsessively. It was all about the product, I didn't care much about the code, it was a mere tool to accomplish something, but then I fell in love.

I fell in love with software engineering, I rediscovered the complexity of building software, the software itself. The developer experience of people using my code, how an API will be able to scale and be future proof, optimizing processes so more developers can work without stepping on each other. Since then, I have worked building SDKs and APIs, created Gin, and Ionic and Stencil using web technologies.

During all this time I had no time to stop and think, not a single week without coding, week after week, then year after year. Thinking more about the "Why", rather than the "How". However, back in October 2019 something happened. One night some friends and I went out for drinks close to my office in Kreuzberg, a vibrant district of Berlin.

My friends in Berlin




That night I broke my ankle.

Picture of my ankle Sagittal radiography of my ankle Coronal radiography of my ankle

Suddenly, everything I was doing, I was working on stopped abruptly. For 14 days I "lived" in that hospital of Kreuzberg, waiting for a surgery until the swelling shrinks. When I was able to calm down, it was not that bad, I found time to read those books I always wanted to, and books I would never have read, reconnected with people, wrote more, designed a tattoo for my ankle and even learned some german: "Ich möchte gerne einen Kaffee mit Milch ohne Zucker". A time to think and disconnect the autopilot.

My tattoo

The worst was to come, even though the doctors assured the surgery went well, I had the feeling something was not good. After dealing with a very stressful process, I managed to get my health data onto a CD, bought an external CD reader on Amazon and asked for a second opinion.

I was told to come back immediately to Spain (where my family is from). Indeed, there were problems, the articular space was not respected, nerve damage because of the suture, an unrepaired tendon and the syndesmosis screw not placed in the optimal position. I was scared, tired, and depressed, but after the second surgery I was able to find some peace again.

Without deadlines, I opened my laptop and remembered those old days where I used to write game engines and build things. After some research, I tried to visualize my health data, writing all the software from scratch.

It was a lot of fun, but how could I connect the dots?

I decided it was time to think again in terms of product, something I would love to build and feel passionate about.

Tech demo showcasing my very own ankle
Tech demo showcasing my very own ankle

Healthcare is not a commodity, at least it's not for me, so building a health product requires a strong ethical filter to discard bad ideas. Once you realize that patients are the true owners of the data, but still they can't access it easily, you can see there is a problem. People need a diagnostic, feel safe and informed, be able to access and share their data, even having access to a Wifi hotspot is critically important so they can connect with their loved ones in the emergency room.

Today I am announcing set.health, my bottom-up approach to solve this problem by helping companies build better software and health products: patient apps, custom implant companies to ship faster, health platforms to communicate better, securing the medical data, funneling anonymized medical data into truly open datasets… and ultimately serve as a product for patients to understand and share their medical data.

There are quite a few companies that also try to solve this problem under different approaches, and I love it!

Screenshot of a COVID19 case, showing pneumonia
Technical demo of a COVID19 case using set.health directly from a browser

2020 is being a complicated year for all of us, but It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better. Today, I can say that breaking my ankle might be one of the 5 best things that happened in my life, just time will say in which position exactly.

Please take a look, and send me an email if you wanna know more, I would love to heard from you!

Tschüss 👋