ATHENS, TX (KLTV) - The Athens ISD Athletic Director has a story to tell, and it all started one night five years ago. That's when Paul Essary had a major heart attack.
It's a night forever imprinted on Paul and Doenye Essary's mind. On March 28, 2009, they were heading home from dinner when Paul started coughing.
"I asked him, 'do you need me to get you to the hospital' and he said yes," his wife explains. "He had the widow maker, which the whole right side of his heart was blocked, the main artery. They knew his system was about to shut down."
Within five minutes of entering the hospital doors, he flat-lined.
"He told me I died. They did CPR on me for 20 to 25 minutes and then he called the time of death," said Paul.
His wife adds, "He just pushed him aside, had to settle himself down, called it and decided to go back and work on him. Over the whole course of the time, I know, I know, I know he flat-lined at least 11 times."
"I said, 'well what made you go back to working on me again,'" Paul asked the cardiologist. "He said, 'I looked over and said that guy has battled so hard to stay alive and fought so hard, I'm not going to quit on him.'"
Paul had no blood flow or oxygen to his brain for nearly an hour. Eventually, his cardiologist got his heart pumping, but he would be unconscious for almost 10 days. What happened then is the heart of his testimony.
"I grew up in a church. If you had asked me before this, is there really a heaven, is there really a life after death, I would have said yes sure. But when I laid in my bed by myself, I was only about 95 percent sure. But I can tell you now, there is life after death. I passed over. I went to heaven," Paul says.
Just eight months before, Paul lost his mother. He tells me her face was the first one he saw.
"She never looked more beautiful than any time I had ever seen her." he says.
Then, Paul says there Jesus stood.
"I turned, I saw him. I saw the color of his hair. I saw the color of his skin from here to here. I do not remember his face. If I saw his hair here, I had to see his face but I cannot remember and I don't think we're supposed to," said Paul.
"Everybody, everybody was praying," said Doenye.
Finally, doctors were able to stabilize Paul, and he continued to amaze them and his wife with his rapid progress.
"I'm very proud of him. He's back. He has no damage whatsoever. And that has to be from our faith, because medically he shouldn't be here," she says.
"I really believe that's the reason why I'm sitting here today is to share this testimony. To be brought back to share with people about the miracle of prayer, that prayer does work and miracles do happen, and there's life after death, because I'm a living example of all three of those," he said.
His wife adds, "He had a long hard road to recovery, but I was there with him every step of the way and he knows I'll always be there with him."
Both walking by faith, covered by the power of prayer.