Former Pacers player waits for heart transplant


Former Indiana Pacers center Scot Pollard understood a heart issue was a potential threat as he got older.

His father, Pearl Pollard, a former University of Utah basketball player, died at age 54 of a heart attack. Pollard, who has led a healthier lifestyle than his father, just didn’t expect the issue to arise in his mid-40s.

“I got a virus in early March of 2021 that attacked my heart, and we believe caused a genetic issue to present itself in the form of PVC (post ventricular contractions),” said Pollard, 48. “My heart beats about 10,000 extra beats a day, so it feels like I’m walking uphill pretty much all the time. Some days are better than others, but it’s been a struggle because I can no longer do many things I used to be able to do prior to 2021, like work, coach (his son’s basketball team), take walks with my wife, and the list goes on.”

With other options having not worked, the Carmel resident is now waiting for a heart transplant.

“Even when I got diagnosed, we thought it would be five to 10 years before I would need a transplant, due to tech being better than when my father went through this,” said Pollard, who played 11 seasons in the NBA, including three seasons with the Pacers. “Plus, I was in better shape and younger than he was when we found out about his issues, so confidence was high that this heart would last much longer.”

A transplant was first suggested in September 2023 when he had a check-in with his cardiologist, Dr. Sunit-Preet Chaudry at St Vincent Hospital.

“That was when we all realized the medications and three ablations we had tried at the University of Chicago hospital had not had the effect we all hoped for,” Pollard said. “I’m way worse in just a three-year period, and there are no more options besides transplant.”

Pollard said his doctors are confident it’s a genetic issue or the ablations would have worked. He had a pacemaker/defibrillator put in place in March 2023.

“As I understand it, the goal of a pacemaker is to have it pacing above 90 percent,” Pollard said. “Mine has consistently been in the 60-70 percent range. So, while it’s probably helping, it’s not doing enough. The defibrillator is an insurance policy against the increasing risk of my heart giving up and stopping due to the PVCs straining it.”

The 6-foot-11 Pollard, who appeared on Season 32 of “Survivor” in 2016, will have a harder time getting a donor heart because of his size. Technology is more advanced than it was in 1991 when his father died while on the transplant list.

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Scot and Dawn Pollard. (Photo courtesy of Dawn Pollard)

“They said they needed someone his size, and at 6-foot-9 and 380 pounds, that was a death sentence,” Pollard said. “While I don’t need a heart from someone my size, I still need a big, healthy heart. Someone at least 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2 and Type O positive, both of which narrow my options considerably.”

Pollard said he decided to follow his wife Dawn’s example of going public to raise awareness.

“In 2019, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and wanted to spread the word to help other women with early detection, which is what saved her life,” he said. “She campaigned, shared her story on social media, did interviews, showed up at charity events when she wasn’t feeling great or normal, and probably saved some lives because of her efforts.”

Pollard said it’s easier to be the patient than the care partner.

“Though I hate being taken care of, the emotional drain of worry, dread, despair, hopelessness and waiting for procedures to end, surgeries to end, getting updates from medical staff, all the while telling your spouse everything will be fine and denying your own fear and emotions,” he said. “It’s almost unbearable. And I only had to do it for a few months as Dawn is not mortal, (she) scared cancer, and surgery in the form of a double mastectomy took care of it. Since my diagnosis in March of 2021, she’s been the breadwinner, nurse, mom, stepmom, counselor, my rock, everything.”

Pollard stopped helping his wife with real estate because doctors recommend lowering his stress level.

Pollard saves his energy to watch his son Ozzy, a junior, play football at Carmel High School and do other activities with his children.

The Pollards recently celebrated their 10th anniversary. Pollard has three children from a previous marriage and a 7-year-old son, Icean, with Dawn.

“It’s hard to see the strongest man you’ve ever known not be able to lift something and get winded and short of breath from doing basic activities,” Dawn said.

Pollard encouraged people to check the organ donor box on their driver license.

“You can be a hero to many people. not just one person, many,” Pollard said.