Patient Misses Heart Transplant Because Of Weather Cancellations


Hundreds of thousands of people lost their holidays and their luggage over Christmas but a Fairbanks, Alaska, man potentially lost 20 or 30 years of Christmases. As the Anchorage Daily News reported, weather prevented Patrick Holland from keeping an appointment in Seattle to get a lifesaving heart transplant. Holland, 57, had three flights canceled as he tried to get to the hospital down south in time to accept the generosity of a 30-year-old man whose donor heart was a perfect match. After a day of scrambling for flights, the heart went to another recipient.

The call from the transplant clinic came as the worst ice storm to hit the Pacific Northwest in decades closed Sea-Tac Airport. When he got off the phone, Holland went straight to the airport and the first flight he tried to book was canceled. Alaska Airlines agents got him on a flight that was just about to close the doors but after four hours in the air, Holland ended up in Anchorage because of the storm. They tried one more time but when that flight was also canceled, the doctors in Seattle had to make the tough call. “I felt like my life was slipping away,” Holland said.

Holland has some time to get another heart. A cardiac disease that developed after he suffered a heart attack at the age of 29 has swollen his heart to twice its normal size and he was placed on the transplant list less than a month ago. Although he said the airlines did everything they could to get him to the appointment, he’s taking that variable out of the equation. He’s looking for a temporary place to live in Seattle, preferably near the hospital.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Hopefully things will work out for Mr Holland. When I was flying fixed wing air medical the company I flew for was very good about not pressuring crews to fly in weather we didn’t belong in. Sounds like that ice storm in Seattle was it. One of things we were told during indoc was that we were not to take into account the patient’s medical condition when deciding whether to accept a trip, only to conduct trip as safely as possible. Most times we did not even know what the medical condition of the patient was. Same safety protocols for organ retrieval. Too many times a medical flight has ended with some kind of accident in the past because of some kind of shortcut by the crew. My father was a kidney transplant recipient so I have some knowledge in what Mr Holland went through trying to get to the hospital in Seattle in time. I wish all the best to Mr Holland.

  2. As a double lung transplant recipient, I truly feel for this man. The feeling of “I’m saved’ and have the rug pulled out from underneath you happened to me twice before I finally got my donor lungs. No one to blame here but mother nature. I’ll be praying he gets his heart soon.