Many folks have been inconvenienced and experienced hardship after devastating storms blanketed much of the country last week. Few, however, were as negatively impacted as Patrick Holland. The cancelled and delayed flights, for him, could ultimately be the difference between life and death. Holland was on the list for a heart transplant and got that lucky call.

After some initial “terrifying” feelings, Patrick Holland became elated after he received the call from the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle last Thursday. They informed him that a donor match had been found for his heart transplant. The 56-year-old Alaska man, who has congestive heart failure, was going to get a new heart.

However, the excitement soon turned to fear and uncertainty as a winter storm battering much of the US led to thousands of flight cancellations, including the one he was scheduled to take to Seattle. Despite airline workers’ best efforts, his subsequent flights were also canceled.

Driving the 2000+ mile trip that included two border crossings wasn’t a viable option either as it would take about 39 hours — if it’s driven nonstop in optimal weather and road conditions.

At first, he was told the organ would still be his. But soon after, Holland was given the heartbreaking news that his transplant opportunity was going to be given to someone else.

Waiting for an organ transplant isn’t as simple as “taking a number and waiting your turn,” according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

“The waitlist is better described as a giant pool of patients,” the site reads. “When a deceased organ donor is identified, UNOS’ computer system generates a ranked list of transplant candidates who are suitable to receive each organ. UNOS matches individuals waiting for a lifesaving transplant with compatible donor organs.”
Organs require specific methods of preservation to remain viable. For hearts and lungs, the maximum organ preservation time can be around four to six hours, while kidneys can range from 24 to 36 hours, the organization said.


As such, Holland is now preparing for the next call and has begun making plans to find a temporary home in Seattle so he can be better prepared if that second opportunity materializes.

Despite the disappointment, Holland remains hopeful and looks to his family, community and faith to keep him going. He says, “I know in the end where I’m going to be no matter what.” He is also pleased that someone else did receive a “Christmas miracle.”