An Alaska man in need of a heart transplant had to give up his opportunity to receive the life-saving organ to another patient when travel chaos from the US winter storm over Christmas prevented him from flying to the procedure in time.
Patrick Holland, a 56-year-old father of seven battling congestive heart failure, received the potentially life-altering call from the University of Washington Medical Center on Dec. 22 that a heart was becoming available.
“It was terrifying news to hear that I was going to get a transplant, to be honest with you. I was terrified,” Holland told CNN. “And then I was excited.”
Holland, who is from Fairbanks, Alaska, was given an 8-hour window to fly to Seattle for the procedure so he immediately booked an overnight flight and rushed to the airport.
But when he got there, he learned it was canceled amid the ferocious storm last week that battered most of the country.
After learning of his situation, airport staff got him on the next flight — which ended up being rerouted to Anchorage mid-flight due to ice closing the runways in Seattle — something Holland only realized upon landing.
“I started to panic,” he said, “and my worst fears were overwhelming me. Because when you hear that, you’re like, there’s somebody donating a heart and I don’t imagine they can wait that long. Because the longer it waits, the longer the tissue decomposes.”
Soon after he got the call that the hospital was going to give the heart to somebody else.
Holland said he tried to look at the bright side of things, and was glad another person received that life-saving organ that weekend and was able to have their own Christmas miracle.
“I think I cried more that day than I have in my life, and exerted every emotion that I’ve never had. To get out of that funk, I immediately said, ‘Thank God, there’s going to be a family that is saving someone’s dad, saving someone’s brother, saving someone’s, someone’s uncle, you know,’” he told King 5.
Holland said he hopes the operation will help him keep up with his seven children, who range in age from 3 to 36 years old, as well as his wife of 17 years.
He also said he plans to return to find temporary housing in Seattle so he does not miss out on another chance for a new heart.
“We aim to be more prepared for the second call,” reads a post on a Facebook page dedicated to his journey. “The first one came in two-and-a-half weeks. The next one could come any time, or it could be weeks or months out.”