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USD president speaks about heart attack recovery

Jim Abbott sits down to talk about life after a serious heart attack

Vermillion, S.D. (KELO) - Students say he's the heart of the University of South Dakota, but President Jim Abbott's own ticker became the focus of the community. Abbott had a heart attack in early February, but it didn't slow him down for long. 

Within a few days, he was back to work and cheering on the Coyotes at a recent basketball game. 

As he sets his sights on retirement in a few months, he's looking back on the medical emergency and sharing how its influenced his outlook on the future. First of all, having a heart attack reminds Abbott of what he can't have. 

"Well, let's just say I haven't had any ice cream for a couple weeks," Abbott said. 

Abbott has a rather no nonsense approach to his diet now. It's a result of what started as chest pain just a few weeks ago. 

"I remember thinking, 'Do I really want to die in the Walmart parking lot?' That's where I was at the time," Abbott said. 

He says great doctors, nurses, and care are why he's still here now, and he hopes his experience spreads heart health awareness and helps save other people's lives.

"I think an awful lot of guys particularly hate to admit when they have pain. Even to themselves and if it's chest pain, pain in your arm, sometimes your shoulders; you really should pay attention to it," Abbott said. 

Speaking of attention, everyone's been keeping a close eye on Abbott since announcing he'll retire after more than 20 years as USD president. As for what he'll miss, that's easy: his students. 

"Graduation day is just the greatest day. It doesn't make any difference on graduation day. If you're first or last, A to Z; it doesn't matter. You're through and you have a credential that allows you to move forward and be the kind of person and live the kind of life you want to," Abbott said. 

As for his own life, Abbott is rather no nonsense about what's his learned. He simply says, surviving a heart attack can make you appreciate everything you have. 

"Any kind of situation like this reminds you you're mortal and you better do what you want to do while you can," Abbott said. 

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