Pittsburgh man who survived COVID-19 undergoes a transplant after virus reappears and assaults coronary heart – CBS Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The virus reappeared months later on a Pittsburgh fitness trainer who survived COVID-19.
Doctors said the virus had attacked his heart and the only way to save him was to give him a new heart.
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Derek Stipetich thrived on extreme adventures, skiing, and living life to the fullest. When diagnosed with COVID-19 last November, he slowed a little but described his symptoms as mild.
His family later became concerned as the persistent symptoms progressed.
“The weights I used regularly were way too heavy for me,” says Stipetich.
His wife and daughters begged him to go back to the doctor.
“Make sure your lungs are okay, have everything checked,” said Stipetich.
That was January. The doctors told him he was healthy. But in April, Stipetich caught a cold and couldn’t sleep.
“I woke up feeling like I was suffocating,” said Stipetich.
His family urged him to go to the hospital as he believed he might have COVID-19 again. It turned out that Stipetich was very ill and had cardiogenic shock.
“In all of these tests, they came back and said there was nothing more they could do for me,” said Stipetich.
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The news got even more terrifying when Stipetich found that his kidneys and liver were failing, and so was his heart.
“His heart was so sagging that a mechanical heart pump had to sustain his life,” said Dr. Azam Hadi, an advanced heart failure cardiologist with the Allegheny Health Network.
Dr. Hadi was on Stipetich’s team at AGH.
“We were able to turn his shock process so far that he regained his organs other than his heart,” said the doctor.
Next, Schipetich and his family would find out that he needed a transplant. After his heart was artificially pumped for eight days, a donor heart came out.
Dr. Hadi said he had seen many COVID-19 heart problems, including death, but this was a first. Doctors believe the virus was dormant in Stipetich’s body.
“The dormant virus continued to cause heart inflammation. And inflammation, in turn, makes the heart weak and scarred and unable to pump, ”said Dr. Hadi.
Recovery wasn’t easy. Stipetich’s strong body suffered another blow as his mobility was impaired.
But now, after a few months, Stipetich is gaining energy. And while extreme sports and weightlifting may not be in his future, Stipetich and his family have a new purpose.
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A company that Schipetich founded prior to its medical ordeal called Pumping Adrenaline Beating All Odds has been converted into a nonprofit that benefits heart transplant recipients, especially those associated with COVID-19.