Do you know the man featured in the photo? He is Tony Zerrilla and he has worked for Botetourt County for the past 10 years. A New York native, he is finance director for the county. He manages the money flow in an over 70 million dollar budget. And to his credit and the hard work of administration and elected officials, Botetourt County is the smallest county in Virginia to hold a AA bond rating.
He is also a miracle. His heart began to fail in 2009. “Congestive heart failure is no fun,” said the father of two and stepfather to a grown son. His children here in Botetourt are young and in school. Not being able to breath is frightening, he admitted. Zerrilla is a member of The Church of the Transfiguration in Fincastle and was immediately placed on a prayer list for his parish. In 2010 he had an LVAD ( Left Ventrical Assist Device) implanted. That is the same device that former vice president Dick Cheney had implanted during his tenure in Washington (with the Bush Adm.)
Fast forward and Zerilla knew the only option to better health would be a heart transplant. From February 2010 forward he had 24 hour per day power pumping his heart. A battery pack during the day and power device at night. He went on the transplant list and began to wait. And, other churches like Rainbow Forest Baptist Church where his wife Pat is a member, began to pray and people placed him on prayer lists not only here in Botetourt County, but other churches in places all over. “I have no way of knowing how many people were praying for me.”
On Thanksgiving Day morning, 2010 a nurse at UVA called him and said. “Mr. Zerrilla, would you like to receive a new heart today?” Twelve days after the transplant he was out of the hospital and on to physical therapy. He will not speak of the donor only to say it was a young person whom he regards as a personal blessing.
In the spring of 2011 Zerrilla was working out at the BAC at 5:15 in the morning. He plays golf again. He is at the office in the regular hard working job he performs and trudged through what was a tough budgetary process like a Spartan. He is still the go to finance man for the smallest county in Virginia with a AA bond rating.
This summer he is going to take the family to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg and this fall to Disney World in Orlando. Less than a year after he received the new heart!
Said Zerilla, “The experience of having stage IV congestive heart failure, and being medically saved by a mechanical device, and then receiving a heart transplant is an experience which justifies your faith. ”
Zerrilla finished with, “The amount of support from family, friends, and the County including Mr. Burgess and other employees was overwhelming, with thoughtful gestures such as keeping in touch through email at UVA. I am very thankful for the power of prayer and would like to say thanks to all of those persons who placed me on so many prayer lists. These kind actions were truly appreciated.”