Alaska man with congestive heart failure blocked from getting transplant due to winter storm Elliott

Patrick Holland thought he was going to get a new heart, but he couldn’t get to Seattle for the procedure

Abe Asher
Thursday 29 December 2022 21:14 GMT
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Patrick Holland was elated when he recieved news last Thursday that there was a heart donor match for him at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Mr Holland, who has congestive heart failure, was going to get a new heart.

Mr Holland, who lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, went to the airport with his brother to catch a flight from his hometown to Seattle. But with winter storm Elliott battering the country, the flight was cancelled. Alaska Airlines placed Mr Holland on another flight to Seattle after learning about the urgency of his situation, but that flight was re-routed in midair to Anchorage due to the weather conditions.

At that point, with the storm still wreaking havoc, Mr Holland had a sinking feeling.

“I started to panic, and my worst fears were overwhelming me,” Mr Holland told CNN. “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.”

Several other flights that could have transported Mr Holland from Alaska to Washington were also cancelled. Eventually, Mr Holland recieved a call from the hospital informing him that, due to the delay, they’d have to give the heart to someone else.

“Numerous times his hopes and dreams were lifted to astounding heights, and then left to tumble down to the lowest depths of nightmarish proportions, often in the blink of an eye,” Mr Holland’s wife, Haley, wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to his quest for a heart transplant. “This cycle repeated itself over and over.”

Mr Holland had only been on the heart transplant list for a few weeks when he was notified of the donor match in Seattle, but there is no guarantee when he might recieve another match. The United Network for Organ Sharing writes that hearts and lungs only remain viable for around four to six hours, making the window for successful transplants extremely tight.

Whenever the call comes, Mr Holland and his family want to be ready. They’re looking at getting Mr Holland a place to stay in Seattle so he can be on standby and not have to worry about any potential difficulties traveling from Fairbanks.

“We aim to be more prepared for the second call,” the post on the Facebook page reads. “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. The transplant coordinator told him it was surprising how many times Patrick’s name came up as a possible recipient. 5 to 7 times, he said.”

The winter storm had a particularly harsh impact on the Pacific Northwest, with snow, ice, and high winds affecting travel across the region and resulting in numerous flight cancellations in both Seattle and Portland in the days leading up to and immediately following Christmas.

The upside of the storm that prevented Mr Holland from travelling to Seattle was that someone else was able to get a much-needed transplant, whlie Mr Holland was able to spend the Christmas holiday with his family in Alaska.

Mr Holland has seven children ranging in age from three-years-old to 36 and his heart trouble, which started when he suffered a massive heart attack at the age of 29, has affected his ability to interact with them.

“Our next discussion is how to get Patrick a place to stay in Seattle so he doesn’t miss another opportunity,” the Facebook post reads. “The time for him to be away from us is now.”

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