Height That Helped His NBA Career Now Threatens His Life

Ex-Pacer Scot Pollard, who was also on 'Survivor,' awaits heart transplant from a patient his size
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 9, 2024 8:03 AM CST
Height That Helped His NBA Career Now Threatens His Life
Ex-Indiana Pacers center Scot Pollard is seen during a game against the Denver Nuggets on March 3, 2005 in Denver.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

At 6-foot-11, Scot Pollard's size helped him play more than a decade in the NBA, earning him a championship ring with the 2008 Boston Celtics. Now it may be killing him. Pollard needs a heart transplant, an already dire predicament that's made more difficult by the fact so few donors can provide him with a pump big and strong enough to supply blood to his extra-large body. He was admitted to intensive care at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, on Tuesday, and he'll wait there until a donor surfaces who's big enough to be a match. "I'm staying here until I get a heart," Pollard, 48, said in a text message to the AP on Wednesday night. "My heart got weaker. [Doctors] agree this is my best shot at getting a heart quicker."

At nearly 7 feet tall and with a playing weight of 260 pounds, Pollard's size rules out most potential donors for a heart to replace the one that, due to a genetic condition that was likely triggered by a virus he contracted in 2021, has been beating an extra 10,000 times per day. Half of his siblings have the same condition—as did his father, who died at 54, when Scot was 16. "That was an immediate wake-up call," Pollard said in a recent phone interview. "You don't see a lot of old [7-footers] walking around. So I've known that my whole life, just because I had that seared into my brain as a 16-year-old, that yeah, being tall is great, but I'm not going to see 80."

Pollard, who was also a contestant on the 32nd season of Survivor, has been aware of the condition at least since his father died in the 1990s, though it wasn't until he got sick three years ago that it began to affect his quality of life. "It feels like I'm walking uphill all the time," he said during his call, warning the reporter he might need to cut it short if he got tired. Pollard tried medication and has had three ablations—procedures to try to break up the signals causing the irregular heartbeats. A pacemaker implanted about a year ago only gets to about half of the problem. "They all agree that more ablations isn't going to fix this, more medication isn't going to fix that," Pollard said. "We need a transplant." Much more here on the "labyrinthine system" he needs to navigate to get that new heart.

(More Scot Pollard stories.)

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