Norwin basketball standout Ty Bilinsky back on court after recovering from stroke

Thursday, January 21, 2021 | 5:54 PM

Ty Bilinsky took a brief nap Dec. 27 at the home of his mother, Michelle.

It was a comfy Sunday. He wore a blue Duke T-shirt and black gym shorts as he crashed on the couch in the living room.

Then he woke up to watch some football. Steelers-Colts.

“I had been feeling a sensation on my left side, which was weird, and I felt tired,” the senior basketball player at Norwin said. “I watched some of the Steeler game and about five minutes later …”

His heartbeat picked up. The room began to spin. His life flashed before his eyes.

“I lost all feeling on my left side, from my head to my toes,” he said. “I kind of went into panic mode.”

The 18-year-old two-sport athlete, who just had recovered from covid-19, had a stroke.

He immediately was transported by car to Excela Health Westmoreland. From there, he was flown by helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian.

After a series of tests, it was revealed Bilinsky has a hole in his heart that did not fully close after birth. The condition is common and often does not require treatment, but when a clot forms it can travel through the hole to the brain, causing a stroke.

“I have snapped my collarbone in football before, but I’ve never experienced something like this,” said Bilinsky, a point guard who led Norwin with 16.5 points per game. “This is one of those things that can be a life-long thing. It’s not like breaking a bone and you know it’s going to heal.”

Doctors are trying to determine if covid-19 played a role in the stroke.

“They said covid thickens the blood, and that can lead to clotting,” said Allan Bilinsky, Ty’s father who is an assistant principal at Mt. Pleasant, where he is a former boys basketball coach and athletic director. “There are still things they are learning. Ty will need to have surgery to close the hole in his heart.”

Ty remembers everything, from the moment he collapsed, to the helicopter ride, to his hospital room.

When he arrived at overrun Westmoreland, the family had to wait a short time for a room to become available.

“I never lost consciousness,” he said. “The helicopter ride was pretty cool, actually.”

His father will never forget the phone call he received two days after Christmas.

“This has been exhausting,” Allan Bilinsky said. “It was the most scared I have even been in my whole life, seeing my kid’s face like that. I told him to pull his mask down and smile. One side of his face was numb, so he couldn’t (smile).”

Ty was taking a blood-thinner and going through more tests with a possible surgery down the road. A procedure to repair the hole could be put on hold if he plays out the season.

Yes, he is playing again.

He had not appeared in a game yet this season because of covid-19 and recovery from a football-related ankle injury but was cleared to return earlier this week. He made his season debut at Penn-Trafford, scoring six points off the bench.

When his mask was down, he flashed a sly grin. His teammates went crazy when he hit his first jumper.

“I felt like it was my happy place,” Bilinsky said about stepping into a game again. “I wasn’t too nervous, but I was excited.”

Bilinsky, who had chills and a stomach ache when he had the coronavirus, said he is feeling better.

“I feel like I am back to normal,” he said. “If I couldn’t play, I would be happy to say I left it all out there. I wouldn’t have any regrets.”

His coaches teammates were looking forward to seeing him run the floor again and hit some of his trademark pull-up jumpers.

“Ty has been beat up,” Norwin coach Buddy Valinsky said. “He needs to get some reps and back into a rhythm. It was nice to get him back out there.”

His little brother missed playing with him.

Ty Bilinsky has his brother to thank for a quick response to the situation. Adam Bilinsky is a sophomore guard on the basketball team and was there when Ty fell.

“He went into Hulk-mode,” Allan Billinsky said.

Adam scooped his brother up from the floor and bear-hugged him all the way to the car.

“He was screaming, ‘You don’t even need shoes,’ ” Allan Bilinsky said.

“I mess with him because he’s scrawny,” Ty Bilinsky joked. “I’m like, ‘How did you do that — carry me?’ I said, ‘Couldn’t you have carried me a different way?’ Adrenaline took over.”

Adam Bilinsky said he never had been that shaken.

“I knew something was wrong once he actually agreed to going to the ER because usually he is super stubborn on that stuff,” Adam said. “I tell my brother now I’m a super hero.”

Ty’s setback serves as a cautionary tale of sorts, his father said, particularly for the skeptical.

“People need to take covid more seriously,” Allan Bilinsky said. “It’s not what you think it is. It’s worse. It’s real.”

Ty Bilinsky also warns of the potential effects of covid.

“Just be cautious with everything,” he said. “(Covid-19) hits everyone differently. Make your moments count. Don’t leave anything out there.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .


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