Heart stops during gym class, but 17-year-old regains pulse after 20 minutes

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez |

(Screen shot CBS Dallas-Fort Worth)Zack Clements was otherwise healthy before his heart stopped during gym class. Doctors continue to run tests to determine the cause of his cardiac arrest.

BROWNWOOD, Texas (Christian Examiner) -- A Texas teen who collapsed during gym class on his birthday last week claims he had a 'heaven experience' after a mystery medical incident that left him without a pulse for an extended period of time.

Doctors are unsure why Zack Clements, 17, lost consciousness while running sprints in his physical edcuation class at Victory Life Academy May 5. Immediately after his collapse he received CPR from someone onsite until paramedics arrived and shocked his heart three times in attempts to revive him, according to a fundraising website for his medical expenses.

Altogether, the high school football player was left without a heartbeat for 20 minutes, he said doctors told him.

Moments before being pronounced dead, Clements' pulse returned and he was airlifted to Forth Worth's Cooks Children's Hospital, three hours from his home in Brownwood, Texas.

It was in those moments before regaining a pulse Clements says Jesus spoke to him.

"When I was out those 20 minutes, I saw a man who had long ruffled hair and kind of a thick beard, and it didn't take me long to realize that that was Jesus," Clements told CBS Dallas-Fort Worth. "I went up to him and he put his hand on my shoulder and he told me everything would be alright and not to worry."

Everything has in fact been "alright."

Initially doctors were concerned he might have experienced brain damage from a lack of oxygen to his brain during the episode. However, a neurologist has since deemed his brain healthy, his mom said.

"I am so very happy to tell you that he is whole and complete, lacking nothing. Nothing missing, nothing lacking! The neurologist has evaluated him and has released him from his care," Zack's mother Teresa Clements wrote on the giving campaign's site. "Zack's brain is perfect!"

"I serve a BIG God, and I stood on 2 Timothy 1:7 that says: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and SOUND MIND," she added.

An otherwise healthy teen, Zack plans to return to school after tests are completed to determine the reason he experienced cardiac arrest.

He will have an "awesome testimony to share" when he returns, Teresa says. "He was dead for 20 minutes and God gave him back to me."

Zack's dad, Billy, told CBS it was a difficult story to explain or understand except for divine intervention. "For him to wake up and tell us something he experienced like that. It's just you can't explain it. It's not humanly possible to explain it."