The man with a patient heart waits for a second chance

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Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 10:47 AM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A heartwarming story, leaving one North Pole, Alaska, man brokenhearted at the airport.

The story of Patrick Holland has been circulating in the media both at home and on a national level over the last few weeks.

Holland, who was expected to receive a heart transplant for Christmas, didn’t make his flight due to a historic blizzard, one that shut down some of the busiest airports in the country during the holidays.

Holland has spent most of his life learning to live with congestive heart failure. A disease that was inherited, he said, with his father also suffering from heart failure. He had his first heart attack when he was 29 years old.

“I watched my dad have heart attack after heart attack. And when it started with me, I saw like nah, I’m too young.” His dad passed away at the young age of 52. His uncle, at 48.

Growing up he knew something was wrong, but he lived in denial. At 39, he had his second heart attack. Later getting angioplasty surgery, followed by a pacemaker, a defibrillator, then a bypass surgery.

“When my dad would have a heart attack, it was panic, it was ‘oh my gosh’,” said Holland. “I want my kids to be calm about it, to know whatever happens, happens.”

Holland said after a while, the heart attacks would happen so often, the shock value wore off. “When the paramedics come in here and haul me away,” he paused. “So, when they [sic kids] see blood squirting out of my arm, the kids come in and ask what’s for dinner.”

As a father of seven, Holland said he has had to have those hard conversations.

“I always tell my kids, god may need a warrior, and that’s what I signed up for as a Christian,” he said. “Not being able to chase my son around, not being able to chase my 11-year-old around, because they are high energy. It’s tough.”

When he had more strength, Holland said he enjoyed working with seniors. Now, because of his condition, he has been doing it for free. “I had a couple of seniors that were my clients, now they are just my good friends,” he explained. He does the food shopping for them and helps with household chores. “Stuff I can do, you know. My body wants to move but my heart is saying help!”

He got to the point where he started to feel really sick. He explained, it almost felt as if his heart was giving him a shock.

Holland has been on a waitlist for over two years before he got the call. The doctors had found a match.

“My mind was racing,” said Holland. “Just about all the, okay, they are going to put me on the table. They are going to take my heart out they are going to put one in,” he paused again. “Some guy had to die for this.”

At first, the thought terrified him. When the heart transplant coordinator asked if he could make the next flight, he said, “ahhhh, I don’t know,” The coordinator replied, “Well, good luck to you, we’ll wait for the next one.”

He had to make a decision, and fast. Holland said, “I hung up the phone and asked myself, did I just lose 10 years, 15 years, maybe even 30 extra years.” He picked up the phone and called back, meanwhile looking up flights on the computer. He found a flight.

I asked him, what was the deal breaker? He responded, “Not getting on the flight.” Holland said he had to get passed that fear and he did quickly.

That’s when things took a turn. When he arrived at the airport, they noticed the abnormally long lines, which is unusual for the Fairbanks Airport. His brother joined him for the journey, and first noticed the airline kiosks had no one in line. That’s when they realized, the flight was canceled.

Holland was able to talk to an employee with Alaska Airlines and explained his situation. She was able to get Holland and his brother on the next flight. Once on the flight, “I was comfortable, I was safe,” he said.

After several hours in the air, he heard the landing gear drop. Holland couldn’t stop smiling. Then he heard a woman next to him say “I think we are in Anchorage.” “I turned to the woman and said no, wait!” Holland said as he realized he was in Anchorage. “I’m like, I got on the wrong plane. They put me on the wrong plane by accident, all this stuff is going on. I told my brother I’m going to lose my heart. I started to cry.”

Then the fear set in. He had to call the coordinator. She told him to hang in there and get on the next flight. With more time, he had to think fast. Once again, he was looking at the long lines of people and searching for someone to speak with. “As I was looking out the window in Anchorage, you could see the windows bowing back and forth from the wind, meanwhile hearing the word “canceled” floating around the airport,” said Holland.

Because of travel difficulties, the medical team in Seattle had to make a choice and give the heart to someone else.

“Yeah, so. The only thing I kept thinking to myself was, it was my fault. I wasn’t there,” Holland said dolefully. “I was crushed, but I understood.”

The experience, a rollercoaster of highs and lows. “I got the heart, I lost the heart, I got the heart, I lost the heart,” he said. “I told my brother I am just exhausted from all the emotions.”

His brother in comfort told Holland, that someone else is going to get a Christmas miracle. Holland began to pray for the man who was receiving the heart. “I began thinking about what he gets to do with his family, and thinking he is a positive guy too.”

After waiting it out at the airport, they returned home.

Through the heartache, came a silver lining. “One of the doctors said it would be a miraculous feat to get a heart so quick,” he said.” To get a call two and a half weeks later, as a believer, I should know miracles happen.”

“I may have missed the heart this time around,” he said. “But I’ve got so much, you know what I mean, and I’m hoping to get that chance again, and I’m hopeful to just have an amazing life.”

Holland said however many years he gets, weeks, months, whatever it is, “I’m keeping it.”

Even though Holland will have to wait for a second chance for a heart transplant, he continues to look on the brighter side of life and share his story with others.

“Always be hopeful, always look around you for what you have, and take care of seniors,” he said joyfully. “Take care of a senior in your neighborhood, that is one of my biggest things because there is just a shortage of people to help seniors.”

Patrick’s wife Haley posts frequently on Patrick’s Transplant Journey Facebook page.