To see Billy Wayne Flanagan working out today amazes not just his family but his doctors. Just a few months ago, on New Years Eve, Flanagan returned home from a day at church and with family. That night his life would change forever.
In the middle of the night Flanagan awoke with severe chest pains. He was brought Titus County Regional Hospital. First they thought was he was having a heart attack, but things got worse and Flanagan was sent to Tyler's East Texas Medical Center.
There it was determined Flanagan had suffered an aortic dissection. A rare infliction, that creates a split in the aortic wall. A split that ran from Flanagan's heart through his abdomen. It's something doctors say they usually diagnose in an autopsy.
"At times it was terrifying," says wife Kristi Flanagan, "at times he looked like he was in a casket."
Billy Wayne Flanagan is no stranger to the people in Mt. Pleasant. He is an attorney, school board member and church pianist. But it was when dozens and dozens of friends and family gathered at the hospital that Flanagan and his family realized the real power of community and the power of prayer.
"I know there were many times we prayed as a group," says Krisit, "in the chapel at East Texas Medical Center we used it a number of times. That's the only thing we could do. If we can't rely on God in those times I don't know if there is a whole lot that we have because the only thing I could think was I've got to pray."
The answers to those prayers did not come quickly. The loss of blood flow caused Billy's kidneys to shut down. There other complications as well...
"I thought to myself, I don't have enough faith that I'm not being true to God," Kristi recalls, "not coming to him knowing that he is going to answer my prayers but even in those times I felt him there with me. We had the presence of all the family and friends but God's presence is so much bigger than that."
In time and to the amazement of doctors Flangan began to recover. His kidneys unexplainably began to work again and while Flanagan remembers nothing of his ordeal he and his family does know now the power of prayer combined with the love of a community can and has worked miracles.
"God took care of me," says Flanagan, "He gave me a second chance to live is what I think. And there was a series of things that happened, as bad as it was, for example they thought my kidneys would never start working again because they had been down for so long and I had been on dialysis and they started working again."
"That kind of love is just a very humbling thing," says Krisit, " and it's something I think we do take for granted because we see so much of the bad, we don't always dwell on that and that is a gift from God the love of everybody around us... This community has just been amazing."