Bad weather prevents father of 7 from receiving heart transplant

News & Politics

A man ailing from congestive heart failure had the chance for a Christmas miracle — a life-saving heart transplant — only to be thwarted by Mother Nature.

Three weeks ago, 56-year-old Patrick Holland of Fairbanks, Alaska, was placed on a transplant list. Holland has struggled with an undisclosed heart condition for decades and suffered what he described as “a massive heart attack” when he was just 29. Despite the gravity of his condition, Holland has never let his health affect his life goals. He and his wife, Haley, married 17 years ago, and they now have seven children, ranging from 3 years old to 36.

“I’ve had an amazing 17 years with a wife and my kids, and to be able to watch the next two graduate would be just phenomenal,” Holland said. “I mean, it’d be a miracle, to really tell the truth. It’ll be a miracle.”

Then, on December 22, Holland thought that miracle had finally arrived. He received a call from the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle saying that a heart was available for him so long as he could get there within eight hours. Holland admitted that, at first, the prospect of a heart transplant — and all that such a procedure entails — was daunting, but he quickly transitioned from fearful to hopeful.

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“I moved on from scary to excited to the possibility of getting 10, 20 years, maybe even 30 years,” he recalled.

A flight from Fairbanks to Seattle typically takes just three and a half hours. However, like most of the United States, Alaska was overrun with severe winter weather in the days before Christmas, and many flights were canceled. The initial flight that Holland booked that day was one of them, but workers with Alaska Airlines pulled some strings so that he and his brother could be placed on the next available flight.

Still, Holland had a bad feeling.

“I started to panic,” he said, “and my worst fears were overwhelming me.”

When they landed, his worst fears were confirmed. It turned out that his flight had been rerouted back to Anchorage midway through the flight because ice had forced the Seattle-Tacoma Airport runways to close, and Holland began to suspect that he had missed his window of opportunity.

“There’s somebody donating a heart,” he remembered thinking, “and I don’t imagine they can wait that long. Because the longer it waits, the longer the tissue decomposes.”

And sure enough, shortly after they landed in Anchorage, Holland received the call that the heart had been given to someone else.

At first, Holland wept over his loss. However, the man of strong faith then put a positive spin on his apparent setback. “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,” Holland stated.

And since he has already been given a chance at a miracle after just a few weeks on the transplant list, Holland remains confident that there will be a second chance as well.

“The first one came in two and a half weeks,” he noted. “The next one could come any time, or it could be weeks or months out.”

So as not to miss another opportunity, he intends to find temporary housing in Seattle within the next two weeks. “I will be closer. There’ll be no storms to stop me,” Holland insisted. “It would take a completely different act of God to stop me.”

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