Cheswick Christian Academy pastor and ex-basketball coach ‘doing well’ after heart transplant

Friday, June 5, 2020 | 4:53 PM

Clinton Blazevich returned to Allegheny General Hospital on Thursday for a test to see how everything is progressing with his new heart. His numbers, he said, continue to move in the right direction.

It has been a month and a half since the April 22 transplant, and the pastor at Cheswick Christian and successful girls basketball coach at the church’s affiliated school said he’s feeling stronger every day.

“I’ve been trying to do my exercises when I am strong enough,” said Blazevich, who suffered from myocarditis and cardiomyopathy, which made it harder for his heart to pump blood.

“I am listening to my doctors telling me what to do. It’s a process. It’s six weeks out, and for six weeks, I think I am doing well.”

Blazevich had to scale back some of his pastoral duties last summer and step down as coach as the seriousness of his heart condition was diagnosed. He was fitted with a pump known as a Left Ventricle Assisted Device to keep his heart stable.

Blazevich, who resides in Elizabeth with his wife, Brandy, and children Alexis, Payton and Jocelyn, said he has received so much love and support after his transplant, the first such procedure back at AGH, he said, since they suspended all transplants and elective surgeries because of covid-19.

“I don’t think you can put it into words,” Blazevich said.

“I don’t know if there is anyone who has been prayed for more. The outpouring of support from the school, the church, my community here in Elizabeth and also the communities over in Cheswick and Springdale, it’s beyond words.”

Blazevich was placed on a transplant waiting list, and as time went on, he knew the call could come at any time. Uncertainty came into play in March with the regulations and restrictions in effect because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But he got the call from his doctor April 21. Roughly 12 hours later, after several tests, including ones to make sure he was a match for the heart, he was wheeled into the operating room for the early-morning procedure.

“We had a half-hour to get off the phone, pray about it and decide if he was going to take it or not,” Brandy Blazevich said. “He was a little hesitant because he knew what he had to go through having had open-heart surgery last summer to install the pump. But he also was on board. We were praying for God’s timing, and here it was.”

Brandy and the rest of the family, who were not able to be in the hospital because of covid restrictions, received updates throughout the several-hour operation.

“It was heart-wrenching for both of us because we were going to be separated during that time,” she said. “Because he’s had heart issues for so long, this has kind of been our journey together. To finally be at the climax of it all and not be able to be there for him, it was so tough. It was a struggle.

“But the fact that everything was positive and good, that kept us upbeat and hopeful. That part of it was exciting. We had such an amazing support system, and I kept texting as many people as I could to keep them updated. They were as anxious and nervous as I was. We had kind of a chain going.

Clinton kept improving during his 12-day, in-hospital recovery. With social distancing measures in place, Brandy was granted several brief visits.

He was released May 4. While trying to be as active as possible through exercise sessions and walks outside, he said he enjoys simply relaxing in his favorite chair surrounded by his family.

“It’s about just learning to live,” said Clinton, who prays every day for the family of the individual whose heart now beats in his chest.

“Unfortunately, it’s against this covid-19 climate, which just complicates things for me because of my compromised immune system. It can make things a little more difficult to navigate, but navigate we will.”

Clinton, who began sending sermons to the church through a YouTube channel in the time of restrictions before the transplant, is eager to get connected more with his congregation leading up to what he hopes is an in-person return to the church as early as August.

The members of the Cheswick Christian girls baskeball team, under the directon of former Chargers standout and new coach Jacque Willis, dedicated this past season to Blazevich.

The team, with senior Alexis Blazevich helping lead the way, finished 18-7 and made it to the semifinals of the Southwestern Christian Athletic Conference playoffs.

“It has been so special to be there for him through all that he has gone through,” Willis said. “I know that he would do the same for anyone he knows. I can’t put it into words how much that family means to me.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .


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