North Pole’s Patrick Holland gets his new heart

the Holland family
Patrick Holland and his wife Haley Holland with their four children, Samuel, 4, Lily, 12, Laura, 15, and Michaela, 17. (Courtesy Haley Holland)

A North Pole man who was delayed by bad weather on his way to Seattle for a heart transplant in December, finally received a new heart over the weekend.

Patrick Holland got the call late Thursday telling him a heart was available, and he went into surgery at University of Washington Medical Center, said his wife, Haley Holland.

“ Now we can look forward to 10 years together, 20, 30 — I joke about wanting to see our 45th wedding anniversary,” she said.

The Hollands were married in 2006. They have four children together, all of whom were able to fly down on Friday, while Patrick was in the operating room.

“We landed at seven o’clock in the morning — we landed like 15 minutes early and at like 7:06 the surgeon calls me and says that surgery’s done,” Haley Holland said.

This was long-awaited news. Holland, 57, has had congestive heart failure since his late 20s. Three years ago, doctors told him he needed a transplant.

Many Alaskans heard Holland’s story last winter. The medical center told him Dec. 22 that a heart that was a perfect match was waiting for him in Seattle. He and his brother boarded a plane out of Fairbanks early the next morning, but it was diverted from Seattle by a terrible ice storm, and the plane turned around and landed in Anchorage. Holland had to let that heart go to another person on the transplant list. That week, he said, he decided to move to Seattle.

“Because I’m not gonna miss another chance; it’s not going to happen,” Patrick Holland said.

Holland has been living with a couple in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood close to the hospital for the last three months, while Haley and the kids stayed in North Pole. He tried to keep active.

“ You know, he came down here and got a part-time job working with clients with severe dementia. That’s just what he has a heart for,” Haley Holland said.

Since January, there were three times when he was called to the transplant center to receive a new heart, but they all fell through. Once before in March, Haley and the kids flew in only to hear the operation would not happen.

“We have been completely knocked askew with every aspect of our life,” Haley Holland said.

Since the transplant, she said she has been able to visit twice a day, and has had the children, ages 4 to 17, in, one or two at a time. She is learning what comes next.

“Well, it has just been replaced by a different uncertainty. Getting a heart transplant is replacing one disease with another,” she said.

She said she knows some patients don’t live to recover. There are rejection and complications.

“And that’s the life we’re facing now,” Haley Holland said.

Patrick Holland won’t be coming home to North Pole for several months. He’ll be in an ICU for three to four weeks, then move to a recovery facility called Transplant House for three to four months of occupational and physical therapy and cardiac rehabilitation.

Haley Holland anticipates being in Seattle about two more weeks for this trip.

 “There is nothing different about being here from being at home in terms of laundry and dishes and feeding the kids and occupying their time,” she said.  “Having the kids with me is probably the only thing keeping me from turning into a puddle of tears. I’m making sure that this is an adventure for them and not a traumatizing experience.”

She said she has much to be thankful for, and reminds people to register as organ donors.

Previous articleSeattle journalist describes impacts of Alaska’s ‘cruise ship invasion’
Next articleAlaska marine debris experts call for tighter regulation and more cleanup funding