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Knoxville Heart Ball honoree says American Heart Association-funded research helped save life

February 15, 2018

Tim Purcell is a lifelong distance runner, a senior director of strategy at Pilot Flying J, husband and father. This time last year, he had no indication that he’d also become a survivor, following quadruple bypass heart surgery in July 2017.

Now, he is the American Heart Association’s 2018 Knoxville Heart Ball honoree.

It all started when Purcell and his wife, Tami, decided to pursue their dream of owning a horse ranch. Purcell was putting in a lot of extra physical labor to build the ranch, and that’s when the active and physically fit runner noticed slight fatigue, some pain in his wrists and a burning in his lungs like he had just finished a race.

“Our dream probably saved my life,” Purcell said. “Working harder than ever on the ranch brought my subtle symptoms to the surface. While I have some family history of cardiovascular disease, my lifestyle and mild symptoms did not present as a typical patient. But I didn’t ignore them, and I soon learned that my arteries were blocked anywhere from 60-100%.”

Following a successful quadruple bypass, Purcell adopted a vegan diet, cutting his cholesterol from the 250s to 109. He committed fully to the rehabilitation process, and at just 107 days post-surgery, Purcell ran a 5K.

“Tim is an inspiration to our entire team,” Pilot Flying J President Ken Parent said. “His story was a key factor in our decision to support the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Life Is Why We GiveTM fundraising campaign. Throughout American Heart Month in February, we are partnering with our guests and team members across the country to raise funds to help build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. We hope for there to be many more survivors like Tim.”

Pilot Flying J invites guests to visit any travel center or convenience store location during the month of February to support the campaign through in-store fundraising initiatives including special AHA red 16-ounce hot beverage cups, paper heart icons, and purchase round-up to the nearest whole dollar. For more information on how to contribute, visit

Today, Purcell is running and biking 3 times each week, maintaining his vegan diet, taking statin medication and is back to working on his horse ranch.

“I’m looking forward to finishing the ranch and our new home, sitting on the porch and watching the horses,” Purcell said. “None of that would be possible without the support of my family, friends and colleagues; the skilled and genuine care of my doctors and nurses; and the research funded by organizations like the American Heart Association that provided the medical advancements that saved my life.”

“When I got back to work, many colleagues asked, ‘Did you have any symptoms?’” Purcell added. “I know that they are hoping to hear that this can’t happen to them, that as long as they don’t “feel bad” that everything will be fine. But I would ask them to not rely on hope and to make changes today that help them become healthier and protect their heart.”

For more information about Pilot Flying J, visit To learn more about the American Heart Association’s Life Is Why We Give campaign, visit


About Pilot Flying J
Pilot Flying J, the largest operator of travel centers in North America, is committed to connecting people and places with comfort, care and a smile at every stop. Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, Pilot Flying J has more than 750 retail locations in 44 states, more than 100 Roadside Assistance Trucks and growing as part of its Truck Care Program, 44 Goodyear Commercial Tire and Service Centers, and 35 Boss Shops. The Pilot Flying J network provides drivers with access to more than 70,000 parking spaces for trucks, 4,900 showers and more than 5,000 diesel lanes offering Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) at the pump. Pilot Flying J is currently ranked No. 15 on Forbes’ list of America’s Largest Private Companies. Visit for more information.

About Life Is Why We Give™
We all deserve to live a long, healthy and happy life. However, heart disease and stroke are robbing too many of us from this innate entitlement. The American Heart Association is working to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to live their best life. When people donate or purchase goods and services that benefit the AHA from our Life is Why We Give cause supporters, it puts us closer to the quality of life we all deserve.  Life Is Why We Give allows consumers to think about their reasons to live healthier, longer lives and to give in honor of those reasons. Too long, heart disease and stroke have stolen our precious moments. It’s time we fight back together and affirm that we’re more powerful than these diseases… because everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life… and that reason is why we give.