Ohio Valley Unsung Heroes: Lancaster beats illness, returns as UL announcer

MORRISTOWN — November 19, 2016 started out as a normal day for Dean Lancaster.

Lancaster, pastor at Flushing Alliance Church, was attending a meeting there that morning, and what transpired that morning, that day, and throughout the coming months changed him forever and reinforced his faith.

The meeting took a turn for the worse when Lancaster became ill and was transported to Wheeling Hospital. Following a battery of a tests, a cat scan revealed the diagnosis — an aortic dissection.

”There was no way of knowing there was anything wrong beforehand,” Lancaster said. ”My understanding is, it’s mostly hereditary. My dad had an aneurysm, but it was on a different place on his aorta. They said that had a lot to do with the fact I had one, too.”

The dissection was discovered about 10 p.m. and Lancaster was immediately life flighted to Pittsburgh and prepped for surgery.

”(A dissection) is, basically, when the aorta, the big vessel that comes out of your heart, dissolves. It’s a very dangerous situation. It was explained to me that only four out of 10 people that have it survive. That’s a 60-percent mortality rate.”

Actors John Ritter and Alan Thicke have succumbed to the condition.

Lancaster’s situation was caught in the nick of time, and doctors repaired the dissection. He spent the next three weeks in the hospital, followed by another week in a rehabilitation facility.

”Being flat on your back for a month is very difficult to come back from,” Lancaster said of the arduous recovery process. ”I needed His strength and prayed a lot for His strength to recover.”

Through his ministry, Lancaster had spent years praying for the healing of others. Now, he was asking the Lord to heal him.

”I understood that bad things happen to good people all the time,” he said. ”When this happened to my family and I, it put my family in a great bit of trauma because they shared it with me.

”We’re not promised a life free from tragedy and trauma. I understood Jesus had a plan, and that whatever happened, he’d take care of me and my family, my church and my community. I never feared there was going to be something He couldn’t fix. I’m glad He healed me and, if that didn’t happen, even if I’d died of this, Jesus would take care of my family.

”So, I didn’t live in a lot of fear.”

Lancaster also marveled at the response from the Union Local Schools community, where he’s in his second term on the Board of Education and is the public address voice of Jets football and boys’ and girls’ basketball.

”It’s been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. ”Very welcoming, and I’ve received lots of well-wishes from people. I felt very supported, by, not only the Union Local community, but by my church community and those of the greater Flushing area.

”I’m just very thankful. I love these people.”

Lancaster’s condition struck just prior to the tip of the 2016-17 basketball season, which he missed. He just resumed regular activities and returned to the football press box when Union Local opened the home portion of its schedule a few weeks ago.

”I was a little nervous,” Lancaster said, noting his doctors advised him to return to regular activities when his body dictated it was alright. ”But, the guys in the press box made it easy for me.’

When the 54-year-old Lancaster arrived in the area 16 years ago, he was looking for ways to get out in the community. His BOE and public address work, he believes, help serve that purpose.

”I see my work on the Board of Education and my volunteer work at the school as an extension of my ministry,” he said. ”It’s an opportunity for me, as a pastor, to meet people that I otherwise wouldn’t meet. I’ve been able to interact with them in a positive manner and that’s what were called to do as Christians.”

Lancaster credited former UL athletic director Zach Powell and ex-UL head boys’ basketball coach Ben Porter for being pivotal forces in allowing him to begin his ”dream” PA jobs for the Jets.

In 1991, Lancaster served as the PA voice for the Augusta (Ga,) Pirates of the South Atlanta League. Then, they were a Class-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Lancaster also has extensive radio experience in a variety of genres.

At football games, Lancaster’s role is mostly as an announcer, but basketball is a little different. There, he brings music, nicknames (Trenton “Tip Top” Tipton and Haley “The Comet” Porter come to mind) and plenty of flair to the contests. It’s something he enjoys doing, and he can’t wait to return this winter and catch up on all the fun he missed last season.

”I feel like if I’m having fun doing what I’m doing that translates to the fans and the players,” he said. ”So far, it’s been really well accepted.”

If you know of someone in sports in the Ohio Valley whom I could feature as an Ohio Valley Unsung Hero, drop me a line at rthorp@timesleaderonline.com or via Twitter @RickThorp1