AMES, IOWA— Jamie Pollard laid outside the operating room six weeks ago having just endured a heart attack and with everything flashing before him. The Life Flight and wait for his wife to arrive at the hospital had Pollard facing a 15-minute wait.
Thoughts came from every direction. In that moment Pollard had time to think and to worry, and yet he lay there surprisingly calm. He had joined a men’s club two years earlier so he could be Jamie Pollard, Ames resident and not Jamie Pollard, Iowa State athletics director. Now he had that men’s club to thank.
“If you would have told me beforehand that I would be in that position, I think I would have said I would have been frightened to death about dying,” Pollard said Wednesday, his voice trailing off before he paused. “I wasn’t. I was in a good spot.”
That men’s club was one of many Pollard shared thanks for Wednesday, just more than six weeks after he suffered a heart attack while watching his daughters run during a track meet in Cedar Falls on Northern Iowa’s campus. Pollard spoke up the stairs from his office, which he will return to full time next Monday.
He thanked Iowa State fans for their support in the last month and a half. He thanked his staff for taking control of the Iowa State athletic department in his absence. He thanked his family and friends. He thanked the first responders, including his daughter, Annie.
“She was put in a tough spot, for a 16-year old to watch her dad have a heart attack,” Pollard said, his voice cracking. “She was tough. She was instrumental saving my life to go get help and I’ll always be indebted to her.”
Pollard’s heart attack came as a surprise to many, who know the Iowa State athletics director to be a runner and in good shape.
“I can tell you this,” Pollard said, “It wasn’t on my bucket list.”
The heart attack stemmed from a dissection, or a tear in his artery. The dissection wouldn’t turn up in a physical, which Pollard has annually. It was going to happen, and Pollard is thankful it happened when and where it did.
“Had it happened an hour and a half before when I was driving up there or an hour and a half later on my way home, I don’t know if I’d be here, because I would have been on the side of the road,” Pollard said. “I thought it was indigestion at first and I thought I could wait it out. I wouldn’t have been able to wait out a dissection, so I wonder what would have happened had I had to wait on the side of the road.”
The six-week recovery has come and gone slowly. Pollard received advice along the way from Fred Hoiberg, who has dealt with heart surgery himself. He has occasionally been in and out of his office.
Pollard has been cleared to run on a treadmill beginning next week and will continue rehab as he moves back into full-time work. He took his return slowly to help set himself up for the Tailgate Tour in May, and he received final confirmation he was ready to return while eating with his family Sunday.
From across the restaurant, where a group senior citizens was sitting, and older lady and Iowa State fan motioned Pollard over. She smiled big and spoke softly.
“How’s Fred?” she asked when he arrived.
“It hit me that I’m old news,” Pollard said laughing, “So it’s time to get back to work.”
Never has that work been so rewarding.
“It’s truly been a very humbling experience, but it’s also been a very rewarding experience,” Pollard said. “Probably before this started I couldn’t have told you that my love for the Cyclones could grow any more than it already was. But I can assure you, especially after Kansas City, that my love for being the athletics director at Iowa State has never been any stronger.”