Pollard speaks about heart attack, return to work

AMES — A little over an hour after the Mayo Clinic posted a video of Fred Hoiberg speaking from his hospital bed just days after undergoing open heart surgery, Iowa State’s leader, Jamie Pollard, held a press conference to discuss his upcoming return to work.

Pollard, who suffered from a heart attack while attending his daughter’s track meet last month, will be back at Iowa State full-time starting next Monday. Iowa State’s imaginative and outspoken leader has been working in a part-time capacity for the last two weeks.

“This has truly been a very humbling experience but it has also been a very rewarding experience,” an emotional Pollard said before a dozen reporters in the Jacobson Building on Wednesday afternoon. “Honestly before this started, I probably couldn’t have told you that my love for the Cyclones could grow more than it already was. But I can assure you after Kansas City that my love for being the athletics director at Iowa State has never been any stronger.”

Pollard spent time thanking those who have cared for and supported him during the process. He also understandably choked up when giving one specific detail from the life-changing event. It was in regards to his daughter, Annie, who he adamantly thanked.

“She was put in a tough spot,” Pollard said. “For a 16-year old to watch her dad have a heart attack, but she was tough and she was instrumental in saving my life to go get help. I will always be indebted to her." 

Pollard has since been permitted to drive again. Next week, doctors will allow him to try to run on a treadmill. He will continue to attend a local cardio rehab therapy group, where a special friend will be joining him shortly…

Small world

…That special friend, of course is Hoiberg, who is scheduled to return home on Thursday.

If you haven’t already, think about this for a minute: What are the chances that arguably the two top names in Iowa State’s athletic department would both have open heart surgery just months apart?

It’s crazy.

The two have leaned on one another throughout the process, specifically Pollard on Hoiberg, who is unfortunately a crafty veteran when it comes to heart surgery.

“Having his experience was very beneficial,” Pollard said. “He has it down to a science. He knew I was going to have hot flashes. He knew that I was going to need a heating blanket because I would be freezing.”

On Pollard’s second day home after surgery, Hoiberg returned to Ames just 24 hours after the Cyclones lost in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament to UAB. From there, in the Pollard living room, multiple forms of rehabilitation ensued.

“He was going through his own therapy both from losing that game and also dealing with what he knew he was about to face,” Pollard said. “Ignorance is bliss. I have a heart attack and I have no idea what I’m about to go into. Quite honestly, I was out of it for 12 hours when they had me opened up. He had to know and schedule the date that he was going to go back and do this.”

What’s next?

Pollard is a runner. He and his family are self-proclaimed “track geeks.” From that aspect, it’s hard to imagine a way that he can be in better physical shape going forward. In fact, Pollard noted that the physical condition he was in at the time of the heart attack very well could have saved his life.

Pondering if the stress of being an athletics director in the Big 12 and its effect on the heart is fair though…

“People talk about stress and people say, ‘You have a stressful job,”’ Pollard said. “I don’t have a stressful job anymore than anybody else. I think it’s not the job, it’s how you process it. I am type A-plus-plus, ok. Part of that is part of the problem. I’ve got to try to manage that.”

Last but not least, don’t expect Pollard to be frequenting anytime soon.

“I joked with my staff that one of the first things I did was eliminate all chat rooms because the chat rooms cause you guys stress, cause me stress, cause the coaches stress and the athletes stress,” Pollard said. “I joked and said, “Had I died, there are pages full of people who think they are qualified for my opening. I’m glad those people will still have to be AD’s on chat rooms but I won’t be listening to or following them.” 

Good news: Pollard’s goal was to be back to work to participate in Iowa State’s annual summer Tailgate Tour, and that’s exactly what he will do. If the tour invades your neck of the woods, stop by and say hello. Based off of Pollard’s candid words on Wednesday, he certainly would appreciate it.