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Lower Burrell heart patient's fight just beginning

| Friday, June 21, 2013, 1:16 a.m.
Courtesy of the Horwatt family
Lower Burrell resident Tim Horwatt, president of the Burrell Gridiron Club, is awaiting a heart transplant.

The family of Tim Horwatt hopes the community he has supported over the years will return the favor this Saturday.

Horwatt, 44, of Lower Burrell has mounting medical expenses due to a lifelong heart condition that now requires a heart transplant.

His cousin, Leslie Petrosky of Lower Burrell, said his family members decided to sponsor a pasta dinner Saturday at the Kinloch Volunteer Fire Department.

“When he gets a new heart, the cost is going to be outrageous,” Petrosky said.

Although Horwatt has medical insurance, not all costs will be covered, she said.

“Afterward, there will be medical expenses, medicines, back-and-forth trips to hospital,” Petrosky said.

Horwatt's mother, Nancy Horwatt Rainey of Lower Burrell, said her son hasn't been able to work for several years due to his failing health.

He was born with a congenital defect called a transposition of the great vessels. The two major arteries of his heart were connected to the wrong chambers and didn't pump blood correctly.

“Basically, it means his heart operates backward,” Rainey said.

She said Horwatt had a corrective surgery called a Mustard procedure when he was 2 years old.

“The correction held him for 40 years, but it has started to fail,” she said.

Earlier in June, Horwatt had surgery to install a ventricular assist device (VAD) to help his heart pump blood temporarily. He continued to recover in the intensive care unit at UPMC Presbyterian hospital this week.

“They hope this will bridge him until he can get a new heart,” Rainey said.

She said her son twice was called about a possible donor heart, but twice doctors determined the heart wasn't a match.

“It's hard to say how long he will have to wait,” Rainey said. “It could be in the next three months, or it could be the next 20-some months.”

She said Horwatt's heart condition prevented him from participating in most sports as a child, but he has volunteered with many sporting organizations as an adult.

He serves as president of the Burrell Gridiron Club that supports the high school's varsity football team. His son, upcoming senior Tyler Horwatt, is a player, and his cousin, Kevin Horwatt, is a coach.

Tim Horwatt also has assisted the rugby and youth football and wrestling programs in Lower Burrell as well as the Kinloch fire department, his family said.

“He's always been a very active guy,” Rainey said. “Tim wasn't able to play himself and has been involved in the fundraising and everything else.”

“He's a jack-of-all-trades,” Petrosky said.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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