April 25, 2014

Recipient and donor’s wife strike friendship

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A new lease on life is what Laurel native Billie Blankenship Lancaster celebrates each and every day.

And she has good reason to do so. Lancaster has undergone two organ transplants since 2006.

It began when she went to Saint Joseph London’s emergency room in 2002. She was shocked to learn that she was in kidney failure. Lancaster was in a dilemma — she was newly divorced, had no insurance, and was in desperate need of medical treatment. She was put on a chemotherapy drug that slows the progression of the auto immune disease that affected her kidney, but in 2005 her kidney was functioning at only 10 percent. She was registered on the organ transplant list later that year.

It was almost miraculous when Lancaster got a call that a kidney was available on Aug. 26, 2006. She went to Jewish Hospital in Louisville, where she underwent the transplant.

“The kidney started working right on the operating table,” Lancaster said. “I went home the fourth day after surgery.”

Her treatment, however, will continue for the remainder of her life and includes taking medication and regular lab work to check her blood and fluid levels.

Like most organ donors, Lancaster had to wait one year before asking to contact the donor family members. But she had sent letters through the organ donor coordinator to the family and had received some back. Her continued progress inspired her to meet the family so she could personally thank them face to face.

That’s where Libby Travis Traylor came into Lancaster’s life.

A resident of Princeton, Ky., Traylor was devastated when her husband, Roy Travis, died from a traffic accident on Aug. 26, 2006 in Calvert City when his motorcycle was struck by a vehicle. Travis was flown to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville where he later died.

Although Travis was not a registered organ donor, when his brother mentioned it to Libby, she was more than willing.

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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
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