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An Alaska man receives a heart transplant after missing his first opportunity due to severe weather

<i>Courtesy Patrick Holland</i><br/>Patrick Holland temporarily moved to Seattle
Courtesy Patrick Holland
Patrick Holland temporarily moved to Seattle

By Paradise Afshar and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

More than three months after Patrick Holland’s first shot at getting a heart transplant was ruined by winter weather that upended his travel and prevented him from getting to the Washington state hospital in time, the Alaska man has been given a second chance.

The father of seven is among the thousands of people in the Pacific Northwest whose flights were canceled or redirected in December as severe storms swept through the region. But even after his airline jumped through hoops to reschedule Holland on subsequent flights, they were all canceled. The heart transplant was given to somebody else.

Determined to not miss his next opportunity, Holland temporarily relocated from his home near Fairbanks to live near the transplant hospital in Seattle so he could be available at a moment’s notice. There, he was staying with a family who heard about his story on the news.

In the passing months, a few hearts became available for Holland, who has congestive heart failure, but none of them was viable.

Finally, a fifth call came last week alerting Holland to a potential transplant, and everything fell into place.

“It really didn’t feel real until he told me, ‘They told me I have like 20 minutes to say goodbye because we’re going in for intubation,’ and then a nurse came into the room, and he had to hang up,” Holland’s wife, Haley Holland, told CNN.

When her husband called back, the couple had just seconds to speak before he had to go again.

“I barely had time to tell him that I loved him,” said Holland, who has been documenting the family’s transplant journey on Facebook. She and her children flew to Seattle to be with Patrick after the surgery last Friday.

Haley Holland has been giving each potential donor, whose names are not typically shared with their organ recipients, an imagined name of her own.

Her husband is now recovering at the University of Washington Medical Center with a heart transplant from the donor she has dubbed “Andrew.”

“Number five — Andrew, as we affectionately call this donor unless we become blessed enough to find out his true name — was the perfect one,” Haley Holland wrote in a Facebook post.

In the days since the transplant, Haley Holland has felt and listened to her husband’s new heartbeat.

“It feels like a miracle,” she told CNN, adding that with the help of a nurse, she first felt her husband’s new heartbeat through a pulse on his foot. On Saturday, she used a stethoscope to hear the beating.

“It just makes you cry because this isn’t the heart that he was born with. It’s not the heart that he spent 57 years with. This is someone else’s heart. And so it’s very touching and it’s miraculous that Patrick now has this new heart that he’ll be able to enjoy life with.”

Though the surgery was successful, Patrick Holland’s recovery is just beginning. In a Tuesday Facebook update, his wife said he has been able to stand but still has uncomfortable IV ports and extreme he nausea that is making eating difficult.

By Thursday, Holland was progressing in his recovery, according to Dr. Claudius Mahr, his cardiologist at the UW Medicine Heart Institute.

“He’s pretty much progressing as one would expect,” Mahr told CNN. “There’s always a few bumps in the road with surgeries like this, but he’s generally trending in the right direction.”

Mahr said Alaska is one of several states without a heart transplant program, and patients often come to Washington for care. Doctors at the UW Medicine perform among the highest volume of heart transplants in the country, according to the hospital’s website.

Following the surgery, Haley Holland created a GoFundMe to support the family’s expenses. Her thoughts have also been with his heart donor.

“Remembering that this is Andrew’s heart and that someone had to pay the ultimate price,” she said. “Someone had to wmake an enormous sacrifice in order for this miracle to happen. So, it’s a very emotional thing, feeling the pulse or listening to the heart.”

Patrick Holland told CNN in December that he had a “massive heart attack at 29” followed by a series of heart-related complications. He said he dreamed of keeping up with his children, who then ranged in age from 3 to 36.

Following the transplant, Haley Holland said her husband is thankful.

“Even in the worst times he will look at me and he’ll say, ‘It was worth it,'” she said.

As of January, 3,365 patients were on the waiting list for a heart nationwide, according to the Health Resources & Services Administration.

Mahr urged people to become organ donors. “You can save multiple people’s lives.”

Correction: A previous version of this story mischaracterized the volume of heart transplants UW Medicine performs. It is among the highest in the US.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Dakin Andone contributed to this report.

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