Hoiberg Has Special Message for 11-Year-Old Awaiting Open-Heart Surgery

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- A routine checkup turned into a scary diagnosis for a family from Ankeny.

An 11-year-old boy was nervously awaiting open heart surgery at Mercy Hospital this week until he received the motivational speech of a lifetime.

There’s no doubt Andrew Smith’s heart pumps cardinal and gold through his veins, but a recent checkup found something a little scary.

“It revealed something abnormal with the way Andrew’s left coronary artery was routed through his heart, around his heart,” said Steven Smith, Andrew’s father.

Doctors say Andrew needs open-heart surgery. The thought of a serious operation was nerve wrecking for the 11-year-old.

“I was a little nervous and scared the day before,” he said.

Then a special message came along from an Iowa State legend:

“Hey, Andrew, this is Coach Hoiberg of the Chicago Bulls. Just wanted to send you a quick message to wish you all the best with your open heart surgery tomorrow. You may not know this but I've had two open heart surgeries myself. One 10 years ago to replace an aorta and one last year to replace my aortic valve. Today I feel better than ever and look forward to how you are doing.  Please send me a note. Maybe we can talk on the phone after your surgery tomorrow but I wish you nothing but the best man. Stay strong and I'll talk to you soon.”

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The heartfelt video gave Andrew confidence.

“Those words helped me get through the surgery,” he said.

“That brought a smile and a tear for everyone in our family. We are huge Cyclones fans. My wife and I both graduated from Iowa State. It gave our family a sense of calm, a sense of peace about it,” Steven Smith said.

Andrew returned the favor and had a message of his own for Hoiberg.

“Thank you for cheering me on and lifting my spirits,” he said.

With open-heart surgery in common with Hoiberg, Andrew can focus on one more goal: to be just like the former Iowa State basketball star.

“I wanna play for Iowa State Basketball and go for the Chicago Bulls,” Andrew said.

Iowa State University Athletic Director Jaimie Pollard, who also had open heart surgery a year ago, sent the family an email this week. Andrew was discharged from the hospital Friday and hopes to be swimming and fishing with friends and family soon.

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