Pittsburgh (KDKA) — A fitness trainer in Pittsburgh who survived COVID-19 reappeared a few months later.
The doctor said that the virus had attacked his heart and the only way to save him was to give him a new heart.
Derek Stipetich is good at extreme adventure, skiing and enjoying life to the full. When he was diagnosed with COVID-19 in November last year, his reaction was a little slower, but he said his symptoms were mild.
Later, when the lingering symptoms worsened, his family became worried.
“The weights I use often are too heavy for me,” Stipetich said.
His wife and daughter begged him to go back to the doctor.
“Make sure everything in your lungs is normal and check everything,” Stipech said.
It was January. The doctor told him that he was healthy. But in April, Stipetich caught a cold and couldn’t sleep.
“I’ll wake up and feel like I’m suffocating,” Stipech said.
His family urged him to go to the hospital, believing that he might have contracted COVID-19 again. It turns out that Stipetich is very ill and is in a state of cardiogenic shock.
“In all these tests, they came back and said there was nothing they could do,” Stipetich said.
When Stipetich discovered that his kidneys and liver were failing, the news became even more frightening, as did his heart.
Dr. Azam Hadi, a senior heart failure cardiologist at the Allegheny Health Network, said: “His heart has given way to the point where he needs to rely on a mechanical heart pump to maintain his life.”
Dr. Hadi is on the Stipetich team at AGH.
“We were able to transform his shock process to the extent of restoring organs other than the heart,” the doctor said.
Next, Stipetich and his family will learn that he needs a transplant. Eight days after his heart was artificially pumped, the donated heart arrived.
Dr. Hardy said he has seen many COVID-19 heart problems, including deaths, but this is the first time. Doctors believe that this virus has been dormant in Stipetich’s body.
“The dormant virus continues to cause inflammation of the heart. In turn, inflammation makes the heart weak, scars, and unable to pump blood,” said Dr. Hardy.
Recovery is not easy. Stipetich’s strong body was hit again because his mobility was affected.
But now that a few months have passed, Stipetich is gaining energy. Although extreme sports and weightlifting may not be his future, Stipetich and his family have new goals.
A business called Pumping Adrenaline Beating All Odds that Stipetich started before his medical test has been transformed into a non-profit organization to benefit heart transplant recipients, especially those related to COVID-19.