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Man misses heart transplant surgery due to winter storm

Patrick Holland

Thousands of people across the country had their holidays disrupted because of airline cancellations. But for one man, his canceled flight to Seattle meant putting a lifesaving surgery on hold indefinitely.

Patrick Holland was hoping to spend his Christmas at UW Medical Center at Montlake. After waiting on a transplant list, the Alaska native got the call last Thursday that a new heart was finally available.

Once that happened, he was on a time crunch to get from Fairbanks to Seattle.

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Holland said that he booked a flight, but when he went to the airport in Fairbanks, he learned that his flight was canceled. He explained his situation to an agent with Alaska Airlines and revealed that he needed to get to Seattle for the transplant.

He was then put on another flight, but that flight was diverted back to Alaska amid the severe weather that was hitting Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Because Holland couldn’t make it to Seattle in time, another person on the transplant list received the heart.

“It’s tough to have a body that wants to run but not to have a heart that would let you. It takes away a lot, but on the same side I believed somebody else was going to get a miracle gift, so we just prayed for them,” said Holland.

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Holland praised the performance of Alaska Airlines agents on the ground, who tried to help him get on any flight to Seattle that would allow him to get the transplant he needs.

“Alaska Airlines, they jumped through hoops to get me there, and it didn’t happen,” Holland said.

He said the whole idea of needing the transplant and desperately rushing to get a new heart was taxing.

“It was terrifying news to hear that I was going to get a transplant. To be honest with you, I was terrified and then I was excited,” he recalled.

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On his personal blog, Holland said he is choosing to stay optimistic. His doctors said that because this situation was out of his control, he will not be bumped down on the transplant list.

“You’ve got to look at the bright side of things. On the bright side, I got to go back home to my family and have a good Christmas with them again. There is a big part of me that feels like I let them down by not being in Seattle,” he said.

Holland lamented that he should have been more proactive about being in Seattle, but he did rush to get there once he got word that a heart was available, but unfortunately, ran into extreme weather.

He said he will try to be in Seattle by next week. His family is now working to find him temporary housing in Seattle so that when the next heart becomes available, he will be here and ready. They have created a GoFundMe to help make that possible.

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