Greenville native to have transplant

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A native of the Camellia City is in need of a new heart – and local citizens can step in and help.

If all goes well, Greenville native Billy Luckie will be undergoing a heart transplant within the next four months.

His family is helping defray expenses Luckie is sure to incur through a benefit golf tournament slated for June 18 at Cambrian Ridge.

There is also a raffle underway with the winner taking home a cash prize along with an assortment of valuable prizes donated by area businesses.

And a country music legend – Charlie Daniels, no less – has even sent the family a fiddle personally autographed by the performer.

Daniels met one of Luckie’s grandsons at a CD signing in Greenville last year and took time out from meeting his fans to speak to the boy’s ailing granddad via a cell phone.

&uot;We contacted Charlie Daniels and he was willing to donate a fiddle to auction off, so we really, really appreciate his help,&uot; said son Greg Luckie in a recent phone interview.

Billy Luckie, a 1960 graduate of Greenville High School, began experiencing health problems last May. The father of two and grandfather of four was diagnosed this March with a very rare and serious heart disorder, said his son.

&uot;Daddy, who is 62, has a condition known as restrictive cardiomyopathy – basically, it’s a hardening of the heart muscle itself. The muscle constricts but isn’t able to expand back out so the blood flow is very poor. The doctors at UAB have told him they only see this condition about every three or four years,&uot; Luckie explained in a recent phone interview.

The Luckie family actually sees the diagnosis as a blessing of sorts. &uot;There was another heart disorder they thought Daddy might have and with it, a transplant is out of the question. At least, with this condition, we have the hopes of him getting better,&uot; Luckie said.

Billy Luckie is scheduled to have his transplant surgery done at UAB.

He is currently 1-B status, one step away from 1-A top priority status, and anticipates receiving a new heart in the next two to four months.

&uot;1-A is reserved for people who are in absolute imminent danger of death – they only have about two weeks’ life expectancy without the transplant. My dad is one tier below that,&uot; said Luckie.

Luckie said it normally takes on average six to nine months to get a donor heart, but there was some concern on the heart transplant team’s part his father would not make it that long.

&uot;The unique thing is Daddy’s condition is so rare there really isn’t much data to predict how his condition will progress, so there is not a true way to put a time frame on him.

&uot;His condition has definitely worsened over the past few months and the quicker the transplant can come, the better,&uot; stressed Luckie.

The elder Luckie had also shown signs of kidney failure but just over a week ago doctors determined the situation was not bad enough to warrant a kidney transplant.

&uot;They seem to think when he does get his new heart the improved blood flow might help his kidneys improve, too, but they will continue to monitor the situation,&uot; said his son.

Billy Luckie, who lives in Millbrook with wife and high school sweetheart, Joanne Gandy Luckie, now keeps a phone at his side 24 hours a day, waiting to get that all-important call.

&uot;They always call two potential recipients, and the one with the greatest need is the one who gets the heart – so he could get the call and still not get a new heart,&uot; said Luckie.

Because his father can never be more than two hours away from the transplant center, the proud granddad is having to miss out on coming down for such events as the grandkids’ ballgames.

And he is faced with the expenses any catastrophic illness lays at a person’s door.

That is where local citizens can do their part to help.

&uot;We have an account set up with the National Transplant Assistance Fund, a non-profit organization, to receive tax-deductible donations on Dad’s behalf.

They then give the money to my dad to reimburse him for costs incurred in relation to the transplant.

&uot;In addition to the fundraising events we have in place, donations can be made directly to NTAF by check or credit card,&uot; Greg Luckie explained.

You can go to the family’s new Web site to learn how to make donations, as well as how to register for the upcoming golf tourney.

&uot;The cost to play in the Cambrian Ridge tournament is $100, which includes lunch. The entry fee is, of course, tax deductible. The raffle tickets, which should be at every area convenience store, are $5 each. We are not sure how we will handle the auction of the fiddle right now,&uot; explained Luckie.

Those visiting the family Web site can also learn the latest about Billy Luckie’s condition and get updates on the fundraising efforts.

Greg Luckie wants to remind everyone there is something they can do for his dad that won’t cost a dime.

&uot;More than the money, we are asking for prayers for my dad – we feel like ultimately that is going to do the most good for him of all.&uot;

To contact Greg Luckie via phone, call him at (334) 558-3244.