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Pittsburgh fitness instructor who recovered from Covid has heart transplant after virus resurfaced


Fitness instructor who recovered from Covid undergoes heart transplant after virus lay dormant in his body and attacked his organs six months later

  • Derek Stipetich from Pittsburgh had only mild symptoms when he caught COVID 
  • However, the symptoms lingered and appeared to worsen over months
  • He was reassured by doctors that everything was fine but his health declined
  • Another hospital visit brought the news that he was ill with cardiogenic shock
  • The life-threatening condition in which your heart suddenly can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs
  • Stipetich underwent a successful heart transplant and is recovering well
  • Doctors say his case appears to be a first as Covid lay dormant in his body for months before attacking his heart 


A fitness instructor who had recovered from Covid-19 was forced to have a heart transplant six months later after the virus resurfaced in his body and attacked his organs.

Doctors told Derek Stipetich, of Pittsburgh, that the virus had attacked his heart, leaving them with a transplant as the only option, KDKA reported. 

Prior to testing positive for coronavirus last November, before a vaccine was available, Stipetich was very active as a fitness instructor as well as a skier. His symptoms at first were mild but began to worsen, prompting concern from his wife and daughters.

‘The weights that I was regularly using were entirely too heavy for me,’ Stipetich told KDKA. His family urged him to go back to his doctors.  

Derek Stipetich, a fitness instructor who recovered from Covid-19, has undergone a heart transplant after the virus resurfaced in his body and attacked his organs six months later

Although physicians reassured him in January that everything was fine, his health declined. In April, he came down with a cold that left him feeling like he was ‘suffocating’, he told the outlet. 

Believing he may have Covid again, Stipetich, 48, returned to the hospital where he was told he was seriously ill and had cardiogenic shock – a life-threatening condition in which the heart suddenly can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.      

‘Throughout all these tests, they came back and said, there is nothing more that they can do for me,’ Stipetich said. 

A heart specialist told the outlet that Stipetich’s case was a first: The virus appeared to have been dormant in his body for months before attacking his heart. 

Stipetich's energy is starting to return and he has turned his attention to a business he began prior to his illness, which had now been turned into a non-profit helping heart transplant recipients

Stipetich’s energy is starting to return and he has turned his attention to a business he began prior to his illness, which had now been turned into a non-profit helping heart transplant recipients

His kidneys and liver also were failing. 

‘His heart had given way to a point that he needed to have his life sustained by a mechanical heart pump,’ Dr. Azam Hadi, an advanced heart failure cardiologist at Allegheny Health Network who treated Stipetich, told KDKA. 

‘We were able to turn his shock process around to a point where he recovered his organs except his heart.’

Stipetich waited eight days for a donor heart and is recovering well, despite difficulties with his mobility. 

His energy is starting to return and he has turned his attention to a non-profit he created to help heart transplant recipients.  Pumping Adrenaline Beating All Odds will assist those whose illnesses are associated with Covid-19. 

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