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Family mourning after COVID-19 diagnosis leads to organ failure, pneumonia, enlarged heart before man dies

A local family is remembering their son and brother after he died from COVID-19.

“He was my best friend and always will be,” said Josh Starrett.

Josh Starrett’s brother, Zack, died two days before Christmas after complications from COVID-19. He was 33.

“He had the rest of his life, so much life to live. He was in good shape. You don’t think someone in that condition is going to be taken and so quickly,” Starrett said.

It started with a positive test in October. By mid-November, Zack drove himself to a Latrobe hospital and he was eventually life-flighted to Pittsburgh. His organs were shutting down. Double-lung pneumonia set in and then his heart enlarged before he passed away.

His girlfriend said it was heart wrenching watching his decline.

“It was like this crazy storm. One thing after the next. He literally couldn’t catch his breath between pneumonia and his heart. I just don’t want anyone else to lose a loved one like that, to see it like that, step by step,” Michelle Rauenswinder said.

The Starrett family wants to hold an outdoor music festival in honor of their son and brother. In the meantime, his mom and brother said they occasionally feel a gentle reminder that he’s OK.