Seattle flight cancellations from winter storm cost Alaska man chance for heart transplant

The winter storms that hit just before the holidays canceled hundreds of flights across the country. For one man, the flight cancelations were more than just an inconvenience: they cost him a second chance at a healthy life. 

On Dec. 22, Patrick Holland got a call from the U.W. Medicine Heart Institute, saying they found a match for his heart transplant. 

"It was a rollercoaster of emotions: up and down. It was terrifying and exciting at the possibility of being able to chase after my 3-year-old again," Holland said. 

Holland had his first heart attack at age 29, and since then, he’s had six bypass surgeries. Now in his late 50s, he’s battling congestive heart failure as he raises his seven children.

With the call for a match from U.W., Holland only had eight hours to get from Fairbanks, Alaska to Seattle for the transplant. 

But more than the clock was working against him: some of the worst winter weather the West Coast has seen was closing in.

Holland said he got on his first flight and about four hours in, the flight was diverted to Anchorage due to winter weather. 

"I was crying. I felt that I had just lost a chance to get an extra 10, 15, 20 years of life," Holland said. "I knew that I had lost it [the heart transplant] so, my brother said ‘hey, this just means somebody else is getting a Christmas miracle.’"

Holland is spending New Year's Eve with his family this weekend and is remaining upbeat.

"We’re hopeful that I get a second chance. I am at high-risk for cardiac failure, but I’m not in a hospital on an IV, so I’m kind of low on the list, so then to find another perfect match would be miraculous," Holland said. 

To make sure flight delays don’t get in the way again, Holland is setting up accommodations here in Seattle.