Sea-Tac delays cause Alaskan man to miss heart transplant

Patrick Holland had to fly to Seattle from Fairbanks, Alaska for a heart transplant. After flights were grounded on Friday, he missed the chance for a new heart.

SEATTLE — Patrick Holland had to fly to Seattle from Fairbanks, Alaska, for a heart transplant. He was 1,500 air miles away from a second chance at longer life, but hundreds of cancellations at Sea-Tac Friday sent his heart to the next person on the list.

“It’s scary because your body says ‘let’s go, let’s go,’ and your heart says ‘no,'” Patrick Holland said.

Holland, who struggles with congestive heart failure, was placed on the active transplant list three weeks ago.

“I can’t wait for the day when I get the transplant and can enjoy life again,” Holland said.

Last Thursday night he received a call from the UW Heart Institute that a heart was available for him. The news came with a rush of emotion.

“I went from scary to excited to the possibility of getting 10, 20 years, maybe even 30 years,” Holland said.

Holland said Seattle doctors gave him an eight-hour window to get to the hospital and he was booked on the next flight.

It was a call he hadn’t expected so soon. When he arrived at Fairbanks Airport, his overnight flight to Seattle was cancelled. Holland told his story to an Alaska Airlines agent and they put him on the next flight.

Holland said an unexpected announcement came after four hours in the air.

“I heard the pilots welcoming Anchorage,” Holland said.

The flight had to be diverted because the ice storm grounded all flights at Sea-Tac. After three canceled flights in Anchorage, the window closed on a new heart.

“I think I cried more that day than I’ve ever cried in my life and I drained all the emotions that I never had,” Holland said.

Then he took that pain and turned it into something positive.

“To get out of this mess, I immediately said, ‘Thank God there’s going to be a family that’s going to save someone’s father, save someone’s brother, save someone’s uncle, save someone,'” Holland said.

Holland is a father of seven children and his children range in age from three to 36 years. He joked about wanting more.

“I come from a big family, so I’ve always told my wife I’d like to have 10 kids,” Holland said. “She said, ‘Maybe if you get the new heart.'”

He remains hopeful for them and looks forward to the days when he can play with them more.

“I’ve had an incredible 17 years with a wife and my kids, and it would be phenomenal to see the next two graduates,” Holland said. “I mean it would be a miracle, to tell you the truth, it will be a miracle.”

Holland’s suitcase stays packed and he wants to come to Seattle in two weeks. He’s trying to find a place to stay so he doesn’t miss another opportunity for a new heart.

“I’ll be closer, there won’t be any storms to stop me,” Holland said. “It would take a very different act of God to stop me.” Sea-Tac delays cause Alaskan man to miss heart transplant

Laura Coffey

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