Patrick Holland had been on the heart transplant list for a few weeks when he received a call last Thursday from the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle to let him know that a match had been found.
The 56-year-old Alaskan man, who has congestive heart failure, was due to receive a new heart.
“It was scary news to hear that he was going to get a transplant, to be honest with you. He was terrified,” Holland said on Thursday. “And then I got emotional.”
Holland rushed to the airport with his sister to catch the first flight from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Seattle only to learn that it was canceled amid a winter storm last week that affected much of the US and caused thousands of flight cancellations.
Airline workers found him a place on another plane after learning of his situation, but due to winter weather, that flight was diverted to Anchorage midway through, something Holland didn’t find out until after landing, he said.
“I started to panic,” he said, “and my worst fears began to overwhelm me. Because when you hear that, you think, there’s someone donating a heart and I don’t think they can wait that long. Because the longer you wait, the faster the tissue breaks down.”
Alaska Airlines “bent over backwards to get me there,” Holland said. But several subsequent flights were also canceled, and he told his brother: “I know I missed it, I know I did.”
Moments later, the transplant coordinator called him.
“He was calling me to tell me that they were going to give his heart to someone else.”
Harsh winter weather conditions have had a major impact on the Pacific Northwest in recent days. Icing caused runway closures at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and nearly half of the flights in and out of the airport were canceled Friday, according to FlightAware.