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Heart Attack Can't Keep Coach From the Game

After a football coach suffered a heart attack, doctors had little hope for a positive outcome. Meanwhile, his wife wasn't praying for healing—she was demanding it. Read Transcript


Hello, rip, rip, rip!

As they say, football is king in Texas.

PAUL ESSARY: Boom, right there, good!

I can't imagine my life without it.

Keep fighting, keep fighting, keep fighting, keep working!

But I almost had to imagine my life without it.

Good job, both of you.

Good job, both of you.

NARRATOR: On the evening of March 28, 2009,

high school football coach, Paul Essary, and his wife, Doenye,

were out shopping in their hometown of Pasadena, Texas.

Suddenly Paul had trouble breathing.

Everything's good and just all of a sudden

felt like the wind went out of me.

Felt like I had no energy.

I had to sit down.

My wife came by and asked, are you feeling OK?

And I said, no, I don't feel real good.

NARRATOR: Paul, only 48, knew the signs.

And I said, I'm having a heart attack.

NARRATOR: Doenye rushed Paul to the nearest hospital.

He flat-lined within minutes of being admitted.

DOEYNE ESSARY: They removed me from the room, and take me out.

And I literally go to my knees.

I drop.

Because I've just watched my husband die.

NARRATOR: Unable to get a steady heartbeat,

they transferred Paul to the cath lab,

where they discovered a blockage in his left coronary artery,

also known as the widow-maker.

DOEYNE ESSARY: I was helpless.

I was totally helpless.

I had already gone to the Lord in prayer,

I don't know how many times.

NARRATOR: After several failed attempts to clear the blockage,

they had Paul flown across town to St. Luke's Medical Center,

where a team of specialists better equipped to perform

the procedure got to work.

When Doenye arrived, Paul was still in surgery.

That's the only thing that we had to go for.

I mean, Paul was in Jesus's hands.

It wasn't up to me.

It wasn't up to the doctors.

It wasn't up to all those people there.

There was one person that was in control, and we all knew that.

I knew that.

NARRATOR: She had gotten word out to family and friends,

and found a place to be alone and pray.

I was telling God, you have got to go to work in there.

You have got to touch those doctors.

You've got to touch those instruments.

You've got to make everything come out right

because I need my husband back.

NARRATOR: Finally, doctors removed the blockage,

restoring blood flow.

Paul was placed on an ECMO machine

to assist his heart and lungs.

Even then, his vital organs had gone over an hour

without oxygen. And doctors had little hope for a good outcome.

If he survived this, to expect him to be in a wheelchair,

possibly able to hold his head up,

consider assisted living or home-bound.

Somebody would have to be with me 24 hours a day.

If he survived this, my husband would not be my husband.

He would not be the man that I used to know.

NARRATOR: As the night wore on, friends and family

continued pouring into the already crowded waiting

room to pray.

By now, a prayer chain was spreading

throughout the Houston area.

My prayers were not, please, Lord.

No, it was, Lord, you will do this.

I demand that you hear my prayers.

That's the only thing I could think of at the time

because of what we were going through.

It wasn't a please, Lord.

NARRATOR: As Dwayne and others held their vigil,

Paul started to improve.

After five days, he was taken off the ECMO machine,

and put on a ventilator.

Doenye knew her prayers were being answered.

I did.

I had one of his sisters say, Doenye,

did you really talk to God like that?

And I said, yes, I did, and it worked.

NARRATOR: A week later, Paul woke up.

I see my beautiful wife looking at me.

And she's smiling.

And I looked over at him, and he was

sitting there smiling at me.

And I went over to him and I said, are you OK?

He said, I'm going to be fine.

I'm going to be fine.

NARRATOR: Tests revealed Paul had no brain damage.

But whether he would ever have the strength

to return to coaching remained to be seen.

For Paul, it was about much more than football.

And I said, Lord, you're going to have to help me.

I never thought I wouldn't do it.

I said, Lord, you're going to have to help me.

I said, I want to be able to dance

at my grandbabies' wedding.

And I want to hold--

I want to hold their babies.

And right then, I did not get out of that bed

and start rehab to coach football again.

I got up for my family.

NARRATOR: After a month of rehab,

Paul learned that he wouldn't be sidelined after all.

We go see the doctor, and the doctor releases me back

at my own pace, no restrictions.

I can coach again.

NARRATOR: By summer, he landed a new head coaching job

at Athens High School.

In his first season, he took the Hornets to the playoffs.

That, by all accounts, was a miracle.

But these days, Paul keeps it all in perspective.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Nobody ever expected Athens to be in the fourth round

of the playoffs, OK?

And it came together.

And nobody ever expected me to really

be able to come back and coach.

And I know the good Lord had his hand in the entire thing.

I need the offensive line right here, facing me.

Right here.

Right here.

And I know the Lord has a plan for it,

and I tell everybody all the time.

I don't think he brought me back to win football games.

I think he brought me back to share my testimony.

But I sure am glad he's let me win a few over the last eight

years.

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