Anthony Pollard, of Lebanon, has been through a lot in his 35 years, and he enjoys where he is now.
He has several pet chickens, all with their own names, and he loves growing their food in his garden. He also enjoys making pickles out of the cucumbers he grows as well as doing yard work for people in Lebanon.
“Chickens are really smart,” Pollard said. “People don’t think they are, but they have good memories. They remember sounds and they know their names. And they’re the only pet that can give you breakfast.”
He also loves weightlifting at SamFit. Before COVID-19 forced the gym to close temporarily last spring, Pollard was making great strides in his deadlifting and squatting.
A Special Olympics competitor in golf and bowling, he was planning on competing in powerlifting as well.
“Weightlifting is a team sport in some ways, and in other ways it’s not,” he said. “I can listen to my coaches and do everything they say, but I can’t pass the weight off to a teammate. It’s all about what you put into it, but you get to see the progress you make.”
Pollard has put in a lot of hard work to get to this point, due to a neurological condition he has had throughout his life. As a child, he had a large head and battled a lot of headaches.
“I also had problems with my gait, but that happened after I had a knee injury, so they chalked my gait problems up to that injury,” he said.
When Pollard was 13, his doctor misdiagnosed him with essential tremors. That sent Pollard into a downward spiral.
“My doctor told me that most people don’t get diagnosed with essential tremors until their 80s, and they don’t usually live long after that,” Pollard said. “They said I probably only had until I was 18. I decided that if I only had five years to live, why not do everything I’m not supposed to do?”
So Pollard got into drugs and other unhealthy behaviors. That continued into his 20s, even after he was correctly diagnosed with hydrocephalus, which is a fluid buildup in the cavities of the brain.
“I finally got my diagnosis because I had lost the ability to walk, and I had terrible shakes in all my extremities,” he remembered.
Since that diagnosis, Pollard has undergone multiple procedures to drain the fluid from his brain.
“After my third surgery, I was still addicted to drugs, and I skipped my six-month follow-up,” he said. “About a year later, I kept collapsing, so they put a shunt (drain tube) in my brain.”
These surgeries took place at Oregon Health & Science University. Following the shunt insertion, Pollard said his doctors had a frank conversation about his choices.
“They told me that I’d escaped death twice at that point, and did I really want to live?” Pollard remembered. “So I made changes at that point. I started treatment at Community Outreach (in Corvallis) and I’ve been clean and sober since May 3, 2011.”
Pollard credits his faith, caretaker Lance Kropf and Pastor Ted Boatsman for helping him get clean. However, his health journey has continued, with seven more procedures to adjust the shunt in his brain.
“Every adjustment basically resets my brain,” he said. “I had a bad reset after my last surgery in 2019, and I still wasn’t able to walk six months after the surgery.”
It was at that point that Pollard started working with several trainers at SamFit in Lebanon and Samaritan Athletic Medicine (the SAM) in Corvallis. He has also received care from Samaritan physicians Rick Wopat, MD, and David Simmons, DO; as well as physical, occupational and speech therapy services from Samaritan’s therapists in Lebanon.
Pollard has loved working out at SamFit so much that the 15-minute walk to and from the gym doesn’t bother him.
“Through all of their work with me, I’m walking again,” he said. “I was doing great with my weightlifting before everything shut down.”
His plans and progress were set back when SamFit was forced to close for a few months last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it hasn’t dampened his spirit.
Pollard figures his deadweight max has dropped, but he kept up with a lot of his treatment virtually. He also continued to do gardening work.
What’s next for Pollard? He returned to SamFit in May when the facilities reopened, excited to pick up where he left off with his weight training. While Special Olympics hasn’t been rescheduled, he continues training for future weightlifting competitions. In the meantime, Anthony’s chickens are content and he’s making good use of all the cucumbers in his garden.
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