By Al Owens
As you drive into Tollesboro on the old road from Vanceburg you see a sign on the bank's marquee that says, "Welcome Home Billy".
That sign is a message to Billy Barbour who had a heart transplant at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center on Thursday, May 11.
Barbour has suffered from heart problems for about five years. He had been on the transplant list for a year but was in the hospital and was upgraded to a 1-A prospect for a transplant earlier this month. Had he been sent back home he would have been downgraded to 1-B.
On Wednesday evening, May 10, the doctor told him that a donor had been found. The next morning at 5:00 a.m., Billy entered the eight and one half hour procedure. The next day he was able to get out of bed and take three short walks.
Heart transplant surgery doesn't come without its challenges. Billy says that he is taking about 80 pills a day. The good news, however, is that some of the dosages on some of that medicines are already being gradually reduced. Most of the medicines are designed to prevent his body from rejecting the new heart.
He said that he would eventually get off some of those prescriptions but a few he'll have to take the rest of his life.
Two weeks after the surgery Barbour is having very little pain. Occasionally he'll have recurring nausea that lasts about one hour but it passes. Overall though he says that he gets stronger every day and already enjoys improvement in his health as a result of the miracle of modern medicine.
He says that he and his family have been overwhelmed at the display of love and support from the community. People from all around the region sent him many cards both when he was in the hospital and even prior to that when he celebrated his 52nd birthday on March 6.
With tears in his eyes and choked voice Billy said that he really appreciates all the cards and prayers.
Being a man of faith he gives the good Lord the credit for using the medical skill of the health care professionals to bring about his successful transplant operation, for his improved health and for the potential of longer life.
Billy said, "There's been two gifts from God. God gave His gift but some family gave me a gift, which is God-like."
He referred to his new heart and a new lease on life.
Barbour is also grateful for his family. His parents live next door and some of his children live nearby. Their love and encouragement have been invaluable to him.
Al Owens/Lewis County
Billy Barbour and daughter Molly Hines look at the many cards he received for his birthday and when he had a heart transplant at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center on May 11.
Billy said that he makes the fourth generation that has been in the funeral home business. His great-grandfather started it in 1902 in
Burtonville. In 1926 the business was moved to its present location in Tollesboro. He thinks that perhaps his son, Tommy, will make it a fifth generation enterprise.
Apart from Tommy, Billy and his lovely wife, Elica, have three daughters and one grandson. He referred to Molly Hines, Haley Messer and her son, Westin, and Janna Barbour.
Elica's father, Bob Haley, lives with the Barbour family.
Billy said that he is especially thankful for his best friend Jim Estepp who runs Dickerson Funeral Home in Vanceburg. Estepp has taken a big load off his shoulders during this time. He also expressed his gratitude to Steve Vice who works at Barbour and Son full time and to a former employee, the Rev. Todd Wiley who is only a phone call away. Wiley now pastors the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church just off Highway 68 in Fairview not far from the Blue Licks Battlefield State Park.
Although he has been through a heart transplant, Billy retains his sense of humor. He displayed an easy button, the kind Staple's advertises on TV.
He laughed and said that he has given several of them away. The day prior to our interview he had gone back to the hospital for a biopsy and had given eight of them away.
With a big grin he said, "At the hospital I'm known as the Easy-Button Man."
Nothing is easy about a heart transplant, but the love and prayers from family, friends and good people in many churches have certainly made it easier for Billy Barbour. He is passionately grateful.