Fairbanks man loses chance at heart transplant after back-to-back flight cancellations

A Fairbanks man loses his chance at a heart transplant, after numerous flight cancellations to Seattle.
Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 8:32 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTUU) - Patrick Holland is a father of seven children in Fairbanks who leads a life filled with laughter and faith.

Holland is known for pranking his doctors — even going to the extreme of playing dead once — and has been keeping his spirits bright with regard to his congestive heart failure.

“I tell everybody, ‘Hey man, I’m coming out of the hospital,”' Holland said.

Around three weeks ago, Holland finally got on the active heart transplant list. Holland hoped that getting on the list and receiving a new heart could help him gain up to an additional 30 years of life, providing him with a chance to watch all his children grow up, creating memories with them.

“Chase them around the park again would be nice, cause I used to do that,” Holland said. “My biggest thing is that all my kids know me before I go, so they’re not forgetting me.”

Then on Dec. 22, Holland got the miraculous call that he’s been waiting for: a heart that hospital employees described to him as a “perfect match” was waiting for him in Seattle. That same day, Holland and his brother headed to the Fairbanks airport to catch a red-eye flight to Seattle. But shortly after arriving at the airport, his miracle began to fade.

“I’m going up to the kiosk and it said canceled,” Holland said. ”I’m like ah nah, I’m going to try this. Canceled.”

When an Alaska Airlines employee heard his story, they quickly got him on an alternative flight that was boarding for Seattle.

“So, I’m like ‘Man, I’m so relieved’, this is all God lining things up,” Holland said. “I’m thinking, man I’m so relieved.”

Holland thought he was headed for a new heart as both he and his brother sat on the flight. The opportunity to extend time spent with his family was just 1,332 air miles away. Then, four hours later, a puzzling intercom announcement shattered his dream.

“I heard the Captain say, ‘Welcome to Anchorage,’” Holland said.

His flight had been diverted to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport after all flights were grounded.

“It was announced, but I must have been so focused that I didn’t hear it,” Holland said.

Once on the ground, Holland reached out to the hospital to explain his situation. According to Holland, the hospital in Seattle was also monitoring flights in and out of Anchorage. They advised Holland to keep trying. The woman on the phone, Holland said, told him that it was his heart and it was the perfect match, but did warn him that there was only a short window of time before the organ was no longer viable.

Holland kept attempting to catch a flight out of Anchorage, but time after time , the haunting word “canceled” was displayed on the flight monitors. Then around eight hours later — including four on the ground — Holland got the call he knew was coming from a nurse down in Seattle.

“Everything had already left my body before she told me. She said, I’m sorry we’re going to give it to somebody else,” Holland said.

His miracle was gone.

“Before they even called me, I knew. I mean, I knew it,” Holland said. “I was so drained from the up and downs and the hopes and the dreams, I was having chest pains. So I just thought, I have to be calm about this.”

As devastation filled him, Holland said, he turned to acceptance. He came to the conclusion that someone else was getting their second chance.

“Someone else is getting a miracle on their Christmas,” Holland said.

Holland is now back in Fairbanks, and he remains on the waiting list for a new heart. He is planning on returning to Seattle soon, where he plans to stay until he gets his call that his miracle heart is on the way, making for one less barrier between Holland and his second chance.